|OUR LADY IN DOCTRINE AND DEVOTION|
|William G. Most
Did Vatican II Downgrade Her? During the second session of Vatican II, in October, 1963, the media screamed that the Council had just voted to downgrade Mary. What really happened? There had been a very close vote that day on what seemed to be just a procedural question, of where to put the Council's Marian teaching, in the Constitution on the Church, or in a separate document? It was announced that whichever way a Bishop voted, it would not mean downgrading.
Yet there were signs of trouble even before this point. G. Tavard in Council Daybook , 2, p. 52, said that several speakers had charged several Popes with heresy for saying Mary is Mediatrix: "It would be inconsistent for the Council to approve... the use of a term which contradicts the New Testament. As several speakers have pointed out, the term Mediatrix as applied to Mary is incompatible with the teaching of St. Paul." The reference is of course to 1 Tim 2. 5: "There is one Mediator". This amounted to a charge of heresy against several Popes for they had indeed taught that she is Mediatrix. These Popes were: Leo XIII (8 times), St. Pius X (twice), Benedict XV (twice), Pius XI (4 times), Pius XII (twice), John XXIII. They did not always use the same words, but the idea was clearly there. We should observe in passing that if a doctrine is repeatedly taught on the Ordinary Magisterium level, it is to be considered infallible. On the other hand, floor speeches at a Council are not providentially protected. At the first General Council, Nicea, In 325 AD, several Bishops denied the divinity of Christ.
What really happened? Because of strong feelings, it was agreed that each side would pick just one speaker. First Cardinal Santos of the Philippines spoke for those who wanted a separate document. Among other things He said: "She stood, suffering with Him as He died for us, meriting Redemption with Him... . The saving function of Mary who, as a result of the grace of the Redeemer, was associated with Him in the objective redemption itself, is essentially different from the function of others members [of Christ]."
Before going ahead to see the reply from the other faction, we must explain the term objective redemption used by Cardinal Santos. Mariologists distinguish objective redemption, the work of once-for-all acquiring all graces and forgiveness, from the subjective redemption, the work of giving out the fruits of the objective redemption throughout all subsequent times.
We distinguish further immediate and remote cooperation in the objective redemption. Remote cooperation is found in the very fact that she as His Mother gave Him the humanity in which He could die. Immediate cooperation would mean some sort of role in the great sacrifice of Calvary itself.
We used the broad expression "some sort of role," to leave open the question of precisely how her cooperation operated, in what it consisted.
There seems to have been a consensus before Vatican II that she did have an immediate cooperation: it could not be denied, for so many Popes spoke of her as cooperating on Calvary. That would necessarily be immediate.
There were and are two chief positions on just how her cooperation on Calvary operated. Cardinal Santos, in saying that she merited there, was expressing one position. The other position would speak of her role as merely "active receptivity." The partisans of this position ask us to think of someone stretching out a hand. That would be active. But it would be mere receptivity if the hand contributed nothing at all to producing the value it would receive.
It was German Mariologists who held for active receptivity. For example, Otto Semmelroth, in Urbild der Kirche. Organischer Aufbau des Mariengeheimnisses, (Wurzburg, 1950, p. 54) wrote: "Finally, Mary since she is substantially type of the Church, could not do anything other than the Church herself." Of course, the Church was not at hand on Calvary. The Church merely receives what Jesus alone merited. On p. 56 Semmelroth wrote: "So that it [Christ's offering] might be the offering of mankind there was need of the subjective appropriation by this mankind." This surely reminds us of "taking Christ as one's personal Savior" as the Protestants claim, for they say humans contribute nothing at all to their own salvation, they merely receive or appropriate it, make it their own.
What Vatican II really taught on this point we will see in detail later. For now we merely note that the appropriation by mankind was fully provided by the fact that Jesus was the New Adam, the new head of our race. And also, Semmelroth offered no proof that Mary, with her singular role and graces, could not do anything other than what the Church did. There is indeed in just a few of the early Fathers the notion of her as type of the Church, but they do not draw the conclusion Semmelroth drew from it.
Now that we know the view of the German Mariologists, we cannot help wondering if they wanted to put the Marian teaching into the document on the Church in the hope of getting the Council to teach their theory. Most emphatically it did not do that.
So now when we come to the words of the second speaker, who represented those who wanted to put the Marian teaching into the document on the Church, we are a bit puzzled. Cardinal Koenig of Vienna—who also on a different occasion got up and said Scripture contains many errors!—spoke for that group. And even though Cardinal Santos had clearly expressed not only immediate cooperation in the objective redemption, but had said it was done by way of merit, yet Cardinal Koenig opened by saying: "I do not disagree with the things that are explained by the other eminent Father in this matter. I contradict neither as to the doctrine, nor as to the devotion that flows therefrom. In fact, I very gladly and with my heart agree with all these things." As to wanting Marian doctrine in the constitution on the Church he explained: "The Church... is the central theme of this session and this Council. Therefore it is fitting that the Blessed Virgin should not be absent from this central theme, showing the close bond that exists between the teaching on the Church and the teaching on her."
If anyone favored downgrading, Cardinal Koenig spoke for those who would have done so. Yet he said these things. We can see how accurate our media are, though they have a most keen nose for news when they want to.
But the media report, and the attitude of some at the Council had their effect: a great drop in Marian devotion. Yet, we shall see that Vatican II taught more advanced theological positions on her, and spoke more extensively on her than all previous Councils combined.
a) The existence of the plan for Incarnation and Mary:
Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 1854: "The unspeakable God... since from all eternity He foresaw the most dolorous ruin of the whole human race that would come from the sin of Adam... decreed that by the Incarnation of the Word He would fulfill in a more mysterious way the original plan of His goodness... and so that what fell in the first Adam might be restored much more happily in the second, from the beginning and before the ages He chose and planned a Mother for His Only-begotten Son."
Vatican II, Lumen gentium §61: "The Blessed Virgin, planned for from eternity as the Mother of God along with the Incarnation of the divine Word, was the loving Mother of the Redeemer... His generous associate, more than others, and the humble servant of the Lord."
Comment: 1. All the decrees of God are eternal, since they are identified with His eternal Being. Hence the decree for the Incarnation is eternal. But that decree also needed to contain the choice of a Mother for the Incarnation. That was the Blessed Virgin. Hence her union with Him is eternal. Vatican II notes that she was His associate as well as His Mother. The Council develops this most fully and in detail, as we shall see.
2. The liturgy often has employed Proverbs 8. 22-31 to express this eternal union: "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before his works from of old. I was set up from eternity and of old before the earth was made. When there were no depths, I was brought forth, when there were no fountains abounding in water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth. When as yet he had not made the earth... When he prepared the heavens I was there; when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep; when he established the skies above; when he made firm the foundations of the earth; when he fixed a limit for the sea so that the waters should not pass his commandment. Then I was beside him as his craftsman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him... and my delights were the sons of men."
Is the use of this text for Mary merely a fanciful or poetic accommodation? Such things are possible. But a deeper look is called for. First of all, early on the Law was identified with wisdom, for it is wisdom to follow the law. Thus Sirach 24:22-25 says that whoever follows wisdom will not be ashamed, and Proverbs 1. 7 says "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
These ideas fit with the fact that in the nature of things there are automatic penalties. Augustine in Confessions 1. 12: "You have ordered it, and it is so, that every disordered soul is its own punishment." Similarly 1 Cor 6. 12 says: "All things are permitted—but not all things are beneficial." Excessive drink brings a hangover; premarital sex is very apt to mean a loveless, failed marriage, for love is a desire for the well-being of another for the other's sake. But if two people use each other for sense pleasure, that is not being concerned with the happiness of the other—it puts the other, and self too, into the state of mortal sin, which can bring hell if death intervenes. Yes, it may feel like love and tenderness—chemistry can cause that feeling. The chemistry is identical with or without the real love.
The idea that the law is Wisdom appears strongly in the Palestinian Targum on Dt. 32:4: "God divides the day into four parts: three hours he toils and is busy with [the study of] the Torah." The Babylonian Talmud, Aboda Zara, 3. b has the same idea.
Further, wisdom comes to be personified, as in Wisdom 9. 9-18: "With you is wisdom, who knows your works, and was present when you made the world." We think of John 1. 3: "All things were made by Him [the Logos] and without Him was made nothing that was made." The same thought appears in Col. 1. 15-16: "in Him all things were created". And more explicitly in 1 Cor 1. 25 Christ is the Wisdom of the Father.
We do not assume, of course, that the human author of Proverbs saw Christ as meant at all. But the chief Author, the Holy Spirit, could have in mind more than the human author saw, and later lead the Church to see it.
Then, in view of the eternal inseparable union of the Virgin Mary with Her Son, there is at least some basis for using to refer to her a text which Christian thought came to see as standing for Him." (About the inseparable union, cf. Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, 1950, AAS 42. 768: "Always sharing His lot." Vatican II developed the same thought in great detail, as we shall see.
b) Who was it who planned?
There are two poles (centers around which things are grouped) in our relationship to God: 1)Love, closeness, warmth: this pole cannot be exaggerated, since He is infinite in all respects. But it can be a sick response if the other pole is almost or entirely omitted: 2)Sense of majesty, greatness. There are especially two ways to help add this second pole:
a) The negative way: The Fathers of the Church help: Arnobius, Against the Nations 1. 31: "To understand you, we must be silent; and for fallible conjecture to trace you even vaguely, nothing must even be whispered."
Pseudo-Dionysius, Mystical Theology 1. 2: Said that God is best known by "unknowing".
St. Gregory of Nyssa, Life of Moses: "The true vision of the One we seek, the true seeing, consists in this: in not seeing. For the One Sought is beyond all knowledge."
St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, 1. 6. 6: "He must not even be called inexpressible, for when we say that word, we say something."
These statements all use the negative way, i. e, they tell us what God is not. If we make a statement about Him, we need to refine or correct it at almost every step. Thus if we say: "In the beginning, there was a good Father"—we need many adjustments: "In the beginning"—but there is no beginning for Him. "There was"—the word "was" cannot be used, for He is not in time, all is present to Him. "Good"—Our Lord once replied (Lk 18. 18-19) to a young man who had addressed Him as Good Teacher: "Why do you call me good? One is good: God." He did not deny He was good, but He meant to say that the word good as applied to God and as applied to any creature as something in common, but much more difference than similarity." Father"—same sort of comment.
b) Help from astronomy: The heavens declare the glory of the Lord. so by meditation on astronomy we can gain help to realize partly His Majesty. Here are some data. With each we think: The God who made this by a mere act of will still loves me and wants me to call Him Father. So as in the verse before the Our Father: "Jesus taught us to call God our Father, and so we have the courage to say..."
Antares in Scorpio: 430 light years distant. Could not pass between earth and sun even if distance were tripled.
North Star: over 600 light years Andromeda Galaxy: 2.2 million light years Quasars: some estimates put farthest at 14 billion light years
c) Divine transcendence: This means He is above and beyond all our categories. (1)Knowledge in general: Humans know either passively, by taking on an impression information they had lacked, or actively, by causing something, e.g. , a blind man knows a chair is moving because he is pushing it. But God cannot lack anything, so the passive way will not do; nor can we make Him as limited as a blind man. So we conclude: neither category fits: He is above and beyond all.
(2)Knowledge of free futures: My decision to be made at 10 AM tomorrow will not come from some causes already lined up, to intersect at 10 AM:—then it would not be free. On the other hand, it does not exist, has not yet been made. So it is unknowable as future. He knows these by way of eternity, in which all is present, even things that are future to us. We cannot understand how this can be. Further. even after eternity has made a future decision present, the question remains: How does He know—same problems as above. So, transcendence.
3)Knowledge of futuribles, e.g., what I would do tomorrow if some conditions would be present. These things are not really future—they are just would-be's. So not even eternity can make them present. Yet Scripture shows He knows these. And we all hold that if we should ask for something that would not be good for us, if it were granted, He would not grant it.
d) Motive of the Incarnation: St. Irenaeus (Against Heresies 4. 14. 1) wrote: "In the beginning, God formed Adam, not because He stood in need of man, but that He might have someone to receive His benefits."
Even though He could not receive or gain, He still wanted to create us for two reasons: (1) To have someone to receive His generosity. For it pleases Him to give. But then He gave commandments, for (a) it would do no good to give if we were not open to receive: His commandments tell us how to be open; (b) observing the commandments also steers us away from things built into nature that would harm us. For there are automatic penalties, e. g, a hangover after a drunk, or, very likely, a failed marriage after much premarital intercourse. (c) His Holiness loves everything that is right, and hence He wants us to obey, even though it profits Him nothing. For it is right that creatures should obey; and the things commanded are objectively good.
(2)This is His glory: to give benefits to creatures. Hence Vatican I defined that He created for His own glory, in the sense just given: DS 3025. For the interpretation, cf. W. Most, New Answers to Old Questions, pp. 50-61.
e) Would there have been an Incarnation if Adam and Eve had not sinned?: The Dominicans and the Franciscans have debated this for centuries. See especially Juniper B. Carol, O. F. M.
However, it is almost certain, considering human weakness even had there been no original sin, that some, perhaps all, would sin, and then would not be able to pass on the life of grace to their children. Hence, considering the immense love of God for the human race, and his love of the fulfillment of the objective moral order (more on this later) we must say that to make up for even one mortal sin—by Adam and Eve or by later persons—God would have wanted to repair it. And if He wanted full reparation—a thing He did not have to do—He would have needed an Incarnation.
We notice that all the following prophecies involve Mary inasmuch as she is the Mother of the Promised One, inseparably joined with Him even in the eternal decrees.
Genesis 3:15: The Protoevangelium: Revised Standard Version: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."
Targum Onkelos: "And enmity I will put between you and the woman, and between your son and her son. He shall be recalling what you did to him in the beginning; and you shall be observing him in the end."
Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: "And I will place enmity between you and the woman, and between the offspring of your sons and the offspring of her sons. And it will happen: when the sons of the woman will observe the precepts of the Torah, they will aim to strike you on the head; and when they will forsake the precepts of the Torah, you will aim to bite them in the heel. But for them there will be a remedy; whereas for you there will be no remedy. And they will be ready to make a crushing with the heel in the days of King Messiah."
Fragmentary Targum: "And it shall be: when the sons of the woman observe the Torah and fulfill the commandments, they will aim to strike you on the head and kill you; and when the sons of the woman will forsake the precepts of the Torah and will not keep the commandments, you will aim to bite them in their heel and harm them. However there will be a remedy for the sons of the woman, but for you, O serpent, there will be no remedy. Still, behold, they will appease one another in the final end of days, in the days of the King Messiah."
Targum Neofiti: "And I will put enmities between you and the woman, and between your sons and her sons. And it will happen: when her sons keep the Law and put into practice the commandments, they will aim at you and smite you on the head and kill you; but when they forsake the commandments of the Law, you will aim at and wound him on his heel and make him ill. 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."
Pius IX: Ineffabilis Deus, 1854: "The Fathers and ecclesiastical writers... in commenting on the words, 'I will put enmity between you and the woman, and your seed and her seed' have taught that by this utterance there was clearly and openly foretold [praemonstratum] the merciful Redeemer of the human race... and that His Most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was designated [designatam], and at the same time, that the enmity of both against the devil was remarkably expressed. Wherefore, just as Christ the Mediator of God and man, having assumed human nature, destroying the handwriting of the decree that was against us, in triumph affixed it to the cross, so the most holy Virgin, joined with him in a most close and indissoluble bond, together with Him and through Him exercising eternal enmity against the poisonous serpent, and most fully triumphing over him, crushed his head with her immaculate foot."
Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, 1950: "We must remember especially that since the 2nd century, the Virgin Mary has been presented by the holy Fathers as the New Eve, who, although subject to the New Adam, was most closely associated with Him in that struggle against the infernal enemy which, as foretold in the protoevangelium [Gen 3:15], was to result in that most complete victory over sin and death, which are always tied together in the writings of the Apostles of the Gentiles. Wherefore, just as the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part and final sign of this victory, so also that struggle which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her Son, had to be concluded with the glorification of her virginal body... ."
Pius XII, Fulgens corona, 1953: "... the foundation of this doctrine [Immaculate Conception ] is seen in the very Sacred Scripture in which God... after the wretched fall of Adam, addressed the... serpent in these words, which not a few of the Holy Fathers and Doctors and most approved interpreters refer to the Virgin Mother of God: 'I will put enmity... . ' But if at any time, the Blessed Virgin Mary, defiled in her conception with the hereditary stain of sin, had been devoid of divine grace, then at least, even though for a very brief moment of time, there would not have been that eternal enmity between her and the serpent—of which early tradition makes mention up to the solemn definition of the Immaculate Conception—but instead there would have been a certain subjection."
Vatican II, Lumen gentium §55: "These primeval documents, as they are read in the Church, and are understood in the light of later and full revelation, gradually bring more clearly to light the figure of the woman, the Mother of the Redeemer. She, in this light, is already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise, given to our first parents who had fallen into sin, of victory over the serpent (cf. Gen 3, 15)...."
Vatican II, Dei Verbum §3: "After their fall, by promising redemption, he lifted them into hope of salvation (cf. Gen 3, 15)... ."
John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem, Aug. 15, 1988: §3 "It is significant that St. Paul does not call the Mother of Christ by her own name Mary, but calls her woman: This coincides with the words of the Protoevangelium in the Book of Genesis (cf. 3:15). She is that 'woman' who is present in the central salvific event which marks the 'fullness of time'. Ibid. #11: "At the same time it [Genesis] contains the first foretelling of victory over evil, over sin. This is proved by the words which we read in Genesis 3:15, usually called the Protoevangelium... . It is significant that the foretelling of the Redeemer contained in these words refers to 'the woman'... . From this vantage point the two female figures Eve and Mary are joined under the name of woman... . §30: It is also to be noted how the same woman who attains the position of a biblical 'exemplar' also appears within the eschatological perspective of the world and of humanity given in the Book of Revelation. She is 'a woman clothed with the sun, ' ... . Is not the Bible trying to tell us that it is precisely in the 'woman'—Eve—Mary—that history witnesses a dramatic struggle for every human being, the struggle for his or her fundamental yes or no to God and God's eternal plan for humanity." Cf. also John Paul II, Redemptoris mater §24: "It is significant that, as he speaks to his mother from the Cross, he calls her 'woman' and says to her: "Woman, behold your son! Moreover, he had addressed her by the same term at Cana too (cf. Jn 2:4)... . . she... remains in that mystery as 'the woman' spoken of by the Book of Genesis (3:15) at the beginning and by the Apocalypse (12:1) at the end of the history of salvation." Cf. ibid §47.
Comments: 1. Three out of four of the Targums (ancient Aramaic versions, plus interpretations, of the OT) show us that Genesis 3. 15 is in some way messianic, even though their interpretation is clouded by allegory. Yet they do speak of a victory, even though the same Hebrew verb schuf is used twice, for striking at head, and at heel. Some reject the evidence of Targums, saying we do not know the date of their composition. We reply (as to date of the messianic prophecy passages in the Targums): 1)These interpretations were written by ancient Jews without hindsight, i.e. , without seeing them fulfilled in Christ, for they hated Him. 2)Jacob Neusner, a great Jewish scholar of today, from University of South Florida, in Messiah in Context reviewed every Jewish document from after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian Talmud inclusive (completed 500—600 AD). Up to, but not including that Talmud, he found no interest in the Messiah. In the Talmud, interest returns, but the only major point they mention is that he was to be from the line of David. Now it is hardly conceivable that the Targum interpretations, so numerous, on so many points, could have been written in a period when there was no interest in the Messiah. (On the Targums, see also: Samson Levey, The Messiah. An Aramaic Interpretation. ) Some scholars, e. g, R. Le Deaut (in: The Message of the New Testament and the Aramaic Bible (Targum), Rome, Biblical Institute Press, 1982, pp. 4-5, put the beginning of the Targums in the occasion when Ezra read from the book, and translated, giving the sense: Nehemiah 8. 8.
2. Pius IX for the most part does not speak in his own name, he merely cites approved authors. But Pius XII in Munificentissimus Deus speaks without reservation about the struggle being foretold in the Protoevangelium, and he even uses the fact that this "struggle" was in "common" to Jesus and Mary as a part of the theological reasoning by which he finds the Assumption in the sources of revelation. Further, in Fulgens corona he says Genesis 3:15 is the foundation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception: therefore, it must be contained in that text in some way. Vatican II uses cf. before Gen. 3. 15, at the request of about a dozen Bishops. Cf. Charles M. Miller, "As it is Written". The use of Old Testament References in the Documents of Vatican Council II, (Marianist Center, St. Louis, 1973, pp. 49-60). But even so, that reserve seems to apply only to the understanding of the human author—we do not know how much he foresaw. But it does say that the Church now, with the help of later and full revelation, does see the figure of the woman gradually coming to light. Here Vatican II seems to use the notion that the chief Author, the Holy Spirit, could intend more than the human author saw. It is really obvious that He could do so. (This is true even though in Dei Verbum §12 where the Council had an opening to say explicitly that there could be such a fuller sense, yet it did not say so. On this cf. H. Vorgrimler, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, Herder & Herder, 1969, III, p. 220). Still further, John Paul II, without any reservation, speaks of the Protoevangelium many times as referring to Mary—sample quotes given above. We note that in Mulieris dignitatem he speaks of the text as referring to both Eve and Mary. This is quite plausible, a case of multiple fulfillment of prophecy. On this latter pattern, cf. W. Most, Free From All Error, chapter 5.
The conclusion from all these sources is that it is quite clear that at least as understood in the light of later revelation, Gen 3. 15 is Marian/Messianic, probably in the typical sense, which is a true sense of Scripture: Eve is a type of Mary (for LG §55 uses the word "foreshadowed").
Isaiah 9. 6: RSV: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called 'Wonderful Counselor, Mighty-God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,’"
Targum Jonathan: "A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and his name has been called from of old Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, He who lives forever, Messiah in whose day peace shall increase for us."
Comment: 1. The sense of the Targum is disputed. We have rendered it substantially as does J. F. Stenning (The Targum of Isaiah, Oxford, 1949. ) However Samson Levey (The Messiah. An Aramaic Interpretation, (Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, 1974) turns the sentence structure around so as to read: "his name has been called Messiah... . by the Mighty God." The difference hinges on the Aramaic words min qedem which can mean either "by" or "from of old". As to the words "Mighty God" which the New American Bible renders God-hero—that version is not defensible, for the Hebrew El gibbor in the Old Testament always means only Mighty God, never God-hero. Levey makes a similar change in sentence structure for the Hebrew: "the Mighty God... has called his name 'Prince of Peace'." That translation raises the question of which terms belong to whom.
2. Naturally, the ancient Jews, with their emphasis on monotheism, would have difficulty calling the Messiah God. Yet there are some other OT passages that could indicate divinity of the Messiah.
Psalm 80. 15-18: God is asked to visit this vine "and the stock which your right hand has planted... . Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, upon the son of man whom you have strengthened for yourself." Levey here
Comments: "It would appear that the Targum takes the Messiah to be the son of God, which is much too anthropomorphic and Christological to be acceptable in Jewish exegesis." He notes that neither the earlier nor the later rabbis took up this interpretation by the Targum. Rather, he says that some of the later rabbis "carefully steer clear of any messianic interpretation " by the Targum here. (In passing: we note that here the Messiah is called Son of Man!)
Psalm 45. 7-8: "Your throne, O God, is ever and ever... . God your God has anointed you with the oil of rejoicing." Even though some think the Psalm was occasioned by a royal marriage, the Targum saw it as messianic. Levey even remarks that the Hebrew word for King Melech in verses 2, 6, 12, 15, and 16 is understood as 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." 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. (cf. 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"—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). Isaiah 7. 14: "Behold, the young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
The Targum does not identify this passage as messianic. However, Jacob Neusner, (Messiah in Context p. 173) quotes the great Hillel, one of the chief teachers at the time of Christ, as saying that Hezekiah, son of Achaz (to whom Isaiah spoke) had been the Messiah. So he considered the text messianic. But then Neusner adds (p. 190): "Since Christian critics of Judaism claimed that the prophetic promises... had all been kept in the times of ancient Israel, so that Israel now awaited nothing at all, it was important to reject the claim that Hezekiah had been the Messiah)". Thus the Talmud, cited by Neusner, p. 173, quotes Rabbi Joseph as denying that Hezekiah had been the Messiah.
Further, both Is. 7. 14 and 9. 5-6 are part of the section on Immanuel, which runs from 6. 1 to 12. 6. Hence it is generally accepted that the child in 7. 14 is the same as the child in 9. 5-6. This means, of course, that since 9. 5-6 is marked by the Targum as messianic, so is 7. 14 implicitly messianic. It was only the the actions of the Jews against Christians that caused them to stop saying 7. 14 was Messianic.
Who, then, is the child of 7. 14? Some of the characteristics of 9. 5-6 are too grand for Hezekiah. Further the use of the definite article before almah in 7. 14 seems to point to someone special, not just to the wife of Achaz. On the other hand, a sign to come seven centuries later would hardly be a sign for Achaz. We conclude: this is a case of multiple fulfillment of prophecy: it refers to both Hezekiah and Christ.
Still further, the Septuagint uses parthenos to render Hebrew almah (which means a young woman, of the right age for marriage, who at least should be a virgin. Betulah is the more precise word for virgin). R. Laurentin (The Truth of Christmas Beyond the Myths, Petersham, 1986, p. 412), claims the Septuagint sometimes uses parthenos loosely. But this is not true. Actually, there are only two places in the OT where the Septuagint translates almah by parthenos. One is in Genesis 24. 43, where the context shows the girl is a virgin. The other is Is. 7. 14. There are several other places where almah is at least likely to be a virgin. But the Septuagint is so careful that it uses instead of parthenos, a more general word, neanis in those cases. Laurentin in the English version appeals also to Genesis 34. 3 (in the French he had appealed to 34. 4, which does not have the word parthenos at all). But the case is at least unclear, since 34. 3 is likely to be an instance of concentric ring narration, common in Hebrew. And as we have just said, in all clear instances the Septuagint is very precise in its use of parthenos, at times more precise than the Hebrew (as shown by the context).
Isaiah 52. 13-53. 12: The Hebrew OT here predicts a meek, suffering Servant. The Targum changes it to an arrogant conqueror. Here are some comparisons:
Hebrew v. 3: "He was despised and rejected by men." Targum: "Then the glory of all kingdoms will be despised and cease."
Hebrew v. 5: "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities." Targum: "He will rebuild the sanctuary, polluted because of our sins, [and] handed over because of our iniquities."
Hebrew v. 7: He was "like a lamb being led to the slaughter". Targum: "He will hand over the mighty ones of the peoples, like a lamb to the slaughter."
Comment: Good Jewish scholars today admit that the Targum distorts the Hebrew. (Cf. H. J. Schoeps, Paul, Westminster, 1961, p. 129, and Jacob Neusner, Messiah in Context, p. 190, and Samson Levey, op. cit. p. 152, note 10) One reason was that a suffering and dying Messiah was unacceptable. The belief was widespread that the Messiah would live forever. Hence at times they even spoke of two Messiahs. In the Talmud, Sukkah 52a we read of a suffering and slain Messiah son of Joseph (in comment on Zechariah 12. 10). He was to be the precursor of Messiah son of David, the herald of the true Messianic Age. In addition, the Targum picture seems to reflect hopes for Bar Kokhba, leader of the final Jewish revolt against Rome, who was thought to be Messiah. (Cf. Levey, pp. 66-67.
Zechariah 12, 10: "They shall look upon me, whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for his only son."
Comment: Most commentators are so disturbed by the shift from "me" to "him" that they emend the text. Thus RSV changes "me" to "him" St. John's Gospel in 19. 37 explicitly takes it to refer to Jesus: "And another Scripture says: They will look on him whom their have pierced." Similarly, Apocalypse 1. 7 understands the line to refer to Christ: "Behold he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, everyone who pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him." In Mt. 26. 31 Jesus quotes Zech. 12. 7 to refer to himself: "I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed." On the cross, Jesus quoted Psalm 22,"My God, why have you forsaken me" not to express a belief the Father had left him (though the Father did will His death), but to show that that Psalm spoke of Him. In verse 17: "They have pierced my hands and my feet".
The problem is that "me" seems to be spoken by God Himself", while the "him" seems another person. David Baron, The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah, Kriegel, Grand Rapids, 1971, pp. 438-48 contends that the "me" does express Christ, as divine while the "him" indicates the difference of persons within God.
So these added texts from Zechariah, Apocalypse, and Psalm 22 do help to clarify the prophecy of the suffering Servant in Isaiah 53.
Conclusion from the prophecies: Our Lady is foretold at times directly, at times inasmuch as she is always sharing the lot of Jesus. She would have understood these things readily, for when the Archangel told her that her Son would reign over the house of Jacob forever, that clearly meant the Messiah. For a very common belief at the time held that the Messiah would do that, and no one else. Seeing that He would be the Messiah would at once open up the prophecies to her. The Targums, composed without seeing them fulfilled in Christ, and written before the period when interest in the Messiah disappeared (the period from after the fall of Jerusalem, until the completion of the Babylonian Talmud: cf. Jacob Neusner's study Messiah in Context, and pp. 7-8 above for data on the Targums in general. Now if the Jews, whom the OT so often calls stiff-necked could understand this much, she who was full of grace must have all the more easily seen the truth, even if she never heard a Targum. But she must have heard them in the synagogues. It is likely that there was a period of oral transmission before they were written down, but in either way she would have heard them. As to the question of taking Hebrew almah to mean virgin, as the Septuagint did—she would have no problem, for she was seeing it fulfilled in herself.
Since the redemption, in which she will share, was, under one aspect, in the form of a covenant, we need to go back to the great covenant of Sinai. There God spoke to the people through Moses (Ex. 19. 5): "If you really hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you will be my special possession, dearer to me than all other peoples."
We notice two major features here: 1) It brings into being a People of God, 2) they get favor on condition of obedience. The OT reports sadly how often they failed, going after idols. God warned them, and at last He would send in a foreign power to oppress them to bring them to their senses. When they would repent, He would rescue them. But finally came the great crash, when Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon came down in two waves, 597 and 587 (some prefer 596 and 586). He ruined the Temple and city, and took most of the people into captivity to break their national spirit. It worked, for when Cyrus of Persia, after conquering Babylonia, in 539 allowed the Jews to return, only two tribes, Judah and Benjamin did return. The rest were absorbed into Babylonia and never came back.
(Mormons claim the lost tribes came across the Bering Strait and became American Indians. But the Smithsonian Institution reported:
"The American Indians are physically Mongoloids, and thus must have originated in eastern Asia." Cf. J. B. Billard, editor, The World of the American Indian, Washington, National Geographic Society, 1974, 1979, esp. the chapter "Across an Arctic Bridge" by J. D. Jennings).
It was during this period that God spoke again through Jeremiah 31. 31ff: "I will make a new covenant. It will not be like the covenant I made with your fathers, for they broke my covenant, and I had to show myself their master. But this is the covenant: I will write my law on their hearts; I will be their God and they will be my people."
We notice there will be a difference, for the old was broken, the new will not be broken. The old was on stone tablets; the new is written on hearts. But the two essentials we saw at Sinai are still there: a People of God, to get favor on condition of obedience. As we shall see later, the essential obedience would be that of Jesus (cf. Rom 5. 19 and LG 3). Did Jeremiah see that would be the case? We do not know. But the chief author of Scripture, the Holy Spirit, can intend more than the human author sees. Still less likely is it that Jeremiah saw that the obedience of our Lady would play a role here: cf. LG 56 & 61.
Before moving ahead, we should notice that if we ask why God gave good things under the covenant, the reply would come on two levels: 1)On the most basic level, no creature could by its own power generate a claim on God. Hence His giving is pure unmerited, unmeritable generosity. 2)On the secondary level, i.e. , given that fact that He had freely entered into and bound Himself by covenant, we could speak of Him as repaying the people. In this sense St. Paul in Rom 2. 6 could say that God will repay each one according to his works—in spite of his insistence that justification is gratuitous. This same distinction, as we shall see later, will apply in the new covenant.
a) History of the Doctrine: In studying Scripture there are always two phases: first, we work by human means, normal exegetical methods; second, we see what help the Church gives. If we looked in Scripture by human means, we could at most, suspect there might be an Immaculate Conception, in Genesis 3. 15, reasoning that if the woman is Eve/Mary (cf. the text of John Paul II above) and there is to be complete enmity with the serpent, then she never should have been in any way subject to him even briefly.
We could also reason from the text of Lk 1:28 "full of grace". If we can validate the translation—we can, and will do so, shortly—then we could reason: the enmity would not be full, without the Immaculate Conception.
We turn to the early Fathers. Many, not all of them, make sweeping statements about her holiness. That could imply an Immaculate Conception. Secondly, very many of them speak of her as the New Eve. They could have reasoned: the first Eve had an immaculate start in life—no sin was yet committed. So the New Eve, who was to share in undoing the harm of original sin, should have also an immaculate start. But not one of the Fathers ever reasoned that way. (Tragically, a few Fathers even tried to find sins she had committed. e.g. St. John Chrysostom said that at Cana in trying to help she wanted to make herself seem better than her Son! This was inexcusable rash judgment, no basis whatsoever: Homily on John 21. PG 59. 130ff).
So there was a way open for even denial of her immaculate conception.
We come to the 12th century, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, famed for his Marian devotion, explicitly denied the Immaculate Conception. There seem to have been two reason why Bernard opposed the Immaculate conception. First, he did not want to go beyond the data of Scripture and the Fathers. As we have seen, these were not yet clear. Secondly, he seems to have been affected by the unfortunate view of Augustine on original sin. Augustine seems to have thought that it was not merely a privation, the absence of grace that should be there, as we now know, and will explain below. He seems to have had a positive element in it, namely, concupiscence. In his Retractations 1. 15. 2 Augustine said: "... the guilt of this concupiscence is taken away in Baptism, but the weakness remains." We note he said there was guilt in having concupiscence before baptism. This fits with the tendency of Augustine to think souls of children derive from the souls of parents—he tended to favor this view—without being certain, however—as seeming to be needed to explain how original sin is transmitted. This fits with the words of the same Augustine in his Enchiridion 78. 21. After quoting St. Paul, 1 Cor 7:5 which in the poor Latin version Augustine used spoke of venia, pardon for sex within marriage, Augustine added: "Who now would deny it is a sin, when he admits that a pardon (venia) is given to those who do it, by apostolic authority?" St. Jerome spoke similarly in Against Jovianian 1. 2: "'It is good, he [St. Paul] in 1 Cor 7:1 says, for a man not to touch a woman. ' If it is good not to touch a woman, therefore it is evil to touch one, for nothing is contrary to good except evil. If... it is evil, but is forgiven [cf. venia , pardon, again] it is granted so that worse may not happen... . . it was good not to touch... unless [the danger of] fornication would make the touch excusable."
Even St. Thomas Aquinas wrote (De malo 4. 3): "Carnal semen just as it is the instrumental cause of transmission of human nature into offspring, so it is the instrumental cause of the transmission of original sin." But a physical thing could be an instrumental cause of transmission of original sin only if original sin is thought of as not just a privation (the lack of grace that should be present in a new baby), but as having a positive element.
Not all the early Fathers made such mistakes. Tertullian, even though inclined to be a rigorist, had great praise for marriage, in his work To His Wife: "How, beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice... . Nothing divides them either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh, and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together... . Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present, and where He is, there evil is not." Clement of Alexandria wrote in Paedagogus 2. 10. 94: "Marriage in itself merits esteem and the highest approval."
The views of Augustine and Jerome were a sad mistake. In contrast, Vatican II (Gaudium et spes §49) taught: "The Lord has seen fit by a special gift of grace and love to heal, to perfect, and to elevate this love [within marriage]... so the actions by which the spouses are intimately and chastely united are honorable and worthy, and, carried out in a truly human manner, signify mutual self-giving and promote it." Pope Paul VI (Address to the 13th National Congress of the Italian Feminine Center, Feb. 12, 1966) said, "Christian marriage and the Christian family demand a moral commitment. They are not an easy way of Christian life, even though the most common, the one which the majority of the children of God are called on to travel. Rather, it is a long path toward sanctification." The reason is that in marriage there are countless occasions that require self-sacrifice, because the mate has such a different psychology, and for the needs of children. Cf. Wm. Most, Our Father's Plan, pp. 144-49.
So Bernard wrote (Letter to the Canons of Lyons 7. PL 182. 335): "Could sanctity have been associated with conception in the embrace of marriage, so that she was conceived and sanctified at the same time? That is not reasonable. How could there have been sanctity without the sanctifying Spirit? How could the Holy Spirit be associated in any way with sin? How could sin not have been present where concupiscence was not absent?"
Most of the great theologians of the Middle Ages followed suit. Even St. Thomas wrote (Summa III. 27. 2. ad 2): "... if the soul of the Blessed Virgin had never been defiled with the contagion of original sin, this would take away from the dignity of Christ, according to which He is the universal Savior of all."
But then the tide began to turn, thanks especially to the work of the Franciscan, Venerable Duns Scotus. He showed that to preserve her from original sin was a greater redemption than to allow her to fall into it and then rescue her. Scotus wrote (cited from J. B. Carol, Mariology I, 368): "Either God was able to do this, and did not will to do it, or He willed to preserve her, and was unable to do so. If able to and yet unwilling to perform this for her, God was miserly towards her. And if He willed to do it but was unable to accomplish it, He was weak, for no one who is able to honor his mother would fail to do so."
Again, we note that behind most of the objections was the rather positive notion of original sin. Had they seen, what we now know (see below) that it consists solely in a lack (privation) of the grace that should be there, then there is no problem of God providing it in anticipation of the merits of Christ.
There were false arguments too drawn from etymology. One of these said that Latin redimere means to buy back. But the back implies someone was in a bad state. But no one should ever try to prove anything from the root meanings of any word. For only if the one who first coined the word did a good job, will the meaning even coincide with the meaning of the roots. And even if it does, then later on the only thing we can be sure of is that the meaning probably develops, and we cannot be sure in which direction it will develop. Still further, the Latin merely attempts to reproduce Hebrew gaal , the real source of the concept of redemption. But there is no prefix meaning back on the Hebrew word.
Then the Popes began to make statements of varying clarity. (On these cf. Marian Studies V, 1954, esp. pp. 73—145. ) Sixtus IV in 1477 (DS 1400) praised the liturgical celebration of the Immaculate Conception. The same Pope added further support in 1483 (DS 1425-26), condemning those who said it was sinful to preach and believe the Immaculate Conception. The Council of Trent explicitly declared in its decree on original sin (DS 1516): "... it is not its intention to include in this decree... the blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Rather, the Constitutions of Sixtus [IV] of happy memory are to be observed."
After Trent, the attacks on the Immaculate Conception were greatly moderated. One of the most zealous defenders of the doctrine during this period was the Dominican Ambrose Catarino. Then Pope St. Pius V, in 1567 (DS 1973) condemned the error of Baius who said Our Lady was subject to original sin. And in 1568 the same Pope put the feast of the Immaculate Conception on the calendar of the Roman breviary. Alexander VII in 1661 explained the doctrine much as Pius IX did later: DB 1100. Pope Clement XI in 1708 made Dec 8 a holyday of obligation. Further, the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore in the U. S. in 1846 declared Mary Immaculate to be Patroness of the United States, and Pius IX on Feb. 7, 1847 confirmed this dedication.
The result was that about a century and a half before the definition of 1854, everyone believed the Immaculate Conception.
Finally, in Ineffabilis Deus, in 1854, Pius IX defined this doctrine and added that she was conceived immaculate by anticipation of the merits of Christ. This is not strange, for to the eye of God, all time is present. (Incidentally, this leads to the thought: Could we pray for the salvation of someone already dead, hoping God might have taken into account our prayers in advance? The view that we could is quite plausible, not certain).
Pius XII, in Fulgens corona, 1953 wrote: "... the foundation of this doctrine [Immaculate conception] is seen in the very Sacred Scripture in which God... after the wretched fall of Adam, addressed the... serpent in these words... 'I will put enmity... . ' But if at any time, the Blessed Virgin Mary, defiled in her conception with the hereditary stain of sin, had been devoid of divine grace, then at least, even though for a very brief moment of time, there would not have been that eternal enmity between her and the serpent... but instead there would have been a certain subjection."
b) Nature of original sin: Vatican II said, in Unitatis redintegratio §6: ". . if any things whether in morals or in ecclesiastical discipline or in the manner of expressing a doctrine—to be carefully distinguished from the deposit of faith—have been kept less accurately [than they might] at an opportune time they should be rightly and duly restored." Paul VI followed up with Mysterium fidei (Sept 3, 1965) said that if the older language may be less good, it is not wrong: "The rule of speaking which the Church in the course of long ages, not without the protection of the Holy Spirit, has introduced, and has strengthened by the authority of Councils... must be kept sacred, and no one at his own whim or under pretext or new knowledge may presume to change it."
Such is the case with the language used in speaking of original sin.
To see the matter clearly, we recall three levels of gifts God gave to our first parents:
1) basic humanity—which would include a body and soul, each having many drives and needs, none of which is evil, but each of which operates blindly and as it were mechanically, without regard to the needs of the other drives or of the whole person. Hence if God had given nothing but this first level, there would have been need of mortification, to gradually tame these drives and keep them subject.
2) A coordinating gift, which made it easy to keep all these drives each in its own proper place and range. This gift is sometimes called the gift of integrity.
3) The life of sanctifying grace, which gave the soul the radical ability to see God face to face in the next life (cf. 1 Cor 13:12) making it a temple of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 3:16 and 6:19) and so sharing in divinity: (cf. 1 Pet 1:4). This is called original justice. It as not, as Luther thought, a part of human nature (hence he held for total corruption), or due to human nature. It was strictly supernatural, i. e, raising the soul entirely about the level of the merely human. The presence of the Holy Spirit (or all Three Persons) is not a spatial presence, for spirits do not use space. It means the producing of an effect, here, the giving of the radical ability to see God face to face.
By original sin, our first parents lost, or rather, cast away, all but level 1. Hence they did not have the higher gifts to pass on to their offspring. For a child to come into the world without these is not what God had planned, it is a privation, a lack of what should be there. That lack is original sin.
Often in the past original sin has been spoken of as if it were something positive. It is even likely that St. Augustine thought concupiscence was part of original sin, which would make it partly positive. In Retractations 1. 15. 2: "This sin, of which the Apostle spoke thus is called sin for the reason that it comes from sin, and is the penalty of sin, at times it is called concupiscence of the flesh, the guilt of this concupiscence is taken away in Baptism, but the weakness remains." He speaks of concupiscence before baptism as "guilt" [reatus]. So it seems there is guilt to it before Baptism takes the guilt away, leaving the weakness. This fits with his tendency to hold Traducianism [notion that souls of children are derived from souls of parents] since otherwise he would find it hard to explain how original sin is transmitted, if God would create each soul separately.
The Council of Trent taught (DS 1515): "This Holy Synod declares that the Catholic Church has never meant that this concupiscence, which at times the Apostle calls 'sin' [Rom 6. 12ss] is a sin in that it is truly and properly called a sin in those reborn—but [it teaches that it is called sin] because it comes from sin and inclines to sin."
We can see then: she had not inherited sanctifying grace from Adam, and so would have begun life without it. But God supplied it in anticipation of the merits of Christ. The Fathers so often call her the New Eve. The first Eve started life without original sin—it had not been invented then—and so it is at least highly suitable that the New Eve, who, as we shall see, was to share in removing that damage, should have the same kind of start in life, i.e. , with grace.
We said that the older language on original sin was less suitable than it might be. Especially in sermons preachers spoke of the stain of sin—but a spirit cannot have a stain. Even Trent (DS 1513) spoke of original sin as transmitted by heredity. Paul VI, in his Credo of the People of God (1968) spoke similarly: "We believe that <1>in Adam all have sinned, which means that the original offense... caused human nature, common to all, <2> to fall to a state in which it bears the consequences of that offense. This is no longer the state in which human nature was at the beginning in our first parents... . And so it is human nature, so fallen, deprived of the gift of grace with which it had first been adorned, <3>injured in its own natural powers... that is communicated to all men: it is in this sense that every man is born in sin. We therefore hold with the Council of Trent that original sin is transmitted with human nature, by propagation, not by imitation, and that it is in all men, proper to each."
Comment: We have added numbers for convenience in reference. At <1> we see the echo of the version of Romans 5:12 used by the Latin Fathers, "in quo omnes peccaverunt"—"in whom all have sinned". But the Greek Fathers understood it differently, "inasmuch as all have sinned." Now Trent in its teaching on original sin (DS 1514) taught that we must understand Romans 5:12 the way the whole Church, scattered throughout the world, has always understood it. Now the whole Church has understood that Romans 5:12 teaches original sin.—But that last clause was not understood the same way by the whole Church, as we have just seen. Actually the Greek Fathers are right, and the Latin is a strangely distorted rendering, which led even some theologians to say God had miraculously enclosed all our wills in Adam so all could sin together! Oddly St. Thomas in De malo 4. 3 said: "Carnal semen, just as it is the instrumental cause of the transmission of human nature, so it is the instrumental cause of the transmission of original sin." The language is very unfortunate, probably influenced by the Latin in quo omnes peccaverunt. And sadly too the New Catechism in §404 says, "the whole human race is in Adam" and refers us to Thomas 4. 1, just before the 4. 3 text just cited.
In the item marked <2> Paul VI improves the language of <1> without making it as good as it might be, especially in view of his words in <3> about human nature injured in its powers—just as it is often said that our mind is darkened and our will weakened.
But now John Paul II greatly improved the language in two general Audiences. On Oct 1, 1986 (emphasis added): "In context it is evident that original sin in Adam's descendants has not the character of personal guilt. It is the privation of sanctifying grace in a nature which, through the fall of the first parents, has been diverted from its supernatural end. It is a 'sin of nature' only analogically comparable to 'personal sin'". In other words: It is only the lack, or privation, of that which God wanted us to have, which we should have inherited from our first parents. It is a sin 'only analogically" he said, that is, in a sense partly same, partly different. If we compare an adult who has just committed a mortal sin, and the new baby, the state is the same in that both lack grace; it is different in that the adult has grave personal gift, the baby has none at all. Hence a baby dying without baptism deserves no suffering at all. St. Thomas, De malo 5. 3 ad 4: " the children are separated from God permanently in regard to the loss of glory, which they do not know of, not however as to sharing in natural goods, which they do know. That which they have through nature, they have without suffering." Tragically, St. Augustine said such babies all go to hell, in Enchiridion 93. Even he admitted in Epistle 166. 6. 16, "But when we come to the penalty of infants, believe me, I am put in a very tight spot, and do not know what to reply." Pius IX ruled out this sad error. In Quanto conficiamur moerore (DS 2866) he taught: "God... in His supreme goodness and clemency, by no means allows anyone to be punished with eternal punishments who does not have the guilt of voluntary fault."
John Paul II in Audience of Oct 8, 1986 said (emphasis added): "It is human nature, so fallen, stripped of the grace that clothed it, injured in its own natural powers... that is transmitted to all men, and it is in this sense that every man is born in sin... . However, according to the Church's teaching, it is a case of a relative and not an absolute deterioration, not intrinsic to human faculties.... not of a loss of their essential capacities even in relation to the knowledge and love of God." That is, original sin took us down to level one, but not lower. Mind is darkened and will weakened in a relative sense, relative to what it could and would have been. And it is transmitted by heredity in that grace is not transmitted by heredity.
We need here to reflect on a point of theological method. God has promised to protect the teaching of the Church; He also promised free will. At times these go in opposite directions. As a result we must read texts tightly. What is set down on paper is protected, not what we may suspect was in the mind of the drafters. Here, we fear the idea of Augustine and the poor Latin version in quo omnes peccaverunt may have been in the mind of those who wrote some texts. But only what they set down on paper is protected. So we invoke the principle of UR §6 saying that the old texts are not wrong, but may need improvement.
c) Preventive redemption: She needed redemption, not that she was ever in original sin. Nor did she have an "obligation" to contract it, as some have foolishly said: there can be no obligation to any sin. We can merely say she would have been in original sin in the sense just explained, i.e. , she would have been born without grace, were it not for the preventive redemption. The word "preventive" means anticipatory: the grace she received at her conception was given in anticipation (Latin praevenire) of the merits of Christ, which merits earned that grace.
"Debt" of contacting original sin: It is unfortunate that some theologians have discussed whether and in what way Our Lady had an obligation to contract original sin. They used the word debt, which masks the reality. Of course, no one whatsoever could have an obligation to contract sin. The very idea is nonsense . All we could and should say is that without the special grace of the Immaculate Conception, she would have been in original sin, but even then we must keep firmly in mind that original sin is just a privation, not a contagion or stain in the proper sense of the word.
d) The nature of her grace at the Immaculate Conception: In Lk 1:28 the archangel hails her as, "full of grace". Most versions today do not use that rendering, but greatly weaken it. Yet it is the correct translation as we can see from the Magisterium and from philology.
First, Pius XII, in Fulgens corona gloriae (Sept 8, 1953. AAS 45. 579) taught: "And furthermore, since this Most Holy Virgin is greeted as full of grace and blessed among women, from these words, as Catholic tradition has always understood them, it is clearly indicated by this singular and solemn salutation, never otherwise heard, that the Mother of God was the seat of all divine graces... ." Vatican II, in LG 56 uses that translation. Pope John Paul II has used it many times, and spoke at length on it in Redemptoris Mater §§ 7-11.
If we turn to philology: the Greek word in the Gospel is kecharitomene. It is a perfect passive participle of the verb charitoo. A perfect passive participle is very strong. In addition, charitoo belongs to a group of verbs ending in omicron omega. They have in common that they mean to put a person or thing into the state indicated by the root. Thus leukos means white, so leukoo means to make white. Then charitoo should mean to put into charis. That word charis can mean either favor or grace. But if we translate by favor, we must keep firmly in mind that favor must not mean merely that God, as it were, sits there and smiles at someone, without giving anything. That would be Pelagian: salvation possible without grace. So for certain, God does give something, and that something is grace. So charitoo means to put into grace. But then too, kecharitomene is used in place of the name Mary. This is like our English usage in which we say, for example, someone is Mr. Tennis. That means he is the ultimate in tennis. so then kecharitomene should mean "Miss Grace", the ultimate in grace.—Hence we could reason that fullness of grace implies an Immaculate Conception.
Overflowing grace: Pius IX, in the document, Ineffabilis Deus, defining the Immaculate Conception in 1854 wrote: "He [God] attended her with such great love, more than all other creatures, that in her alone He took singular pleasure. Wherefore He so wonderfully filled her, more than all angelic spirits and all the Saints, with an abundance of all heavenly gifts taken from the treasury of the divinity, that she, always free from absolutely every stain of sin, and completely beautiful and perfect, presented such a fullness of innocence and holiness that none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it."
Pius XII, in Mystici Corporis (AAS 35. 247) has in a way gone even further. He said "her most holy soul was filled with the divine Spirit of Jesus Christ more than all other creatures of God taken together."
Paul VI, in Marialis cultus (AAS 66:135) says the Father "adorned her with gifts of the Spirit granted to no one else."
We need to explore further. Pius IX said she had a greater abundance of grace than all other creatures. Pius XII said an abundance greater than that of all other creatures taken together.
But there are two great categories of grace: sanctifying graces, and charismatic graces. Sanctifying graces are aimed at making the recipient holy; charismatic graces are not aimed at that, though incidentally they may help it. But they are aimed at some benefit for the community. Sanctifying graces include two kinds: habitual grace (also called sanctifying grace) and actual grace (given to me at this moment to lead me and enable me to do a particular good thing here and now). Sanctifying grace consists in the transformation of the soul so as to make it capable of the face to face vision of God in the next life. (t times we speak of created and uncreated grace. Uncreated grace is this presence of the Three Persons, but since that Presence is not spatial—spirits do not take up space—it consists in causing the transformation of the soul. Hence they come to the same thing).
In regard to sanctifying graces: God offers them abundantly, without any limit except that imposed by the receptivity of the recipient. For in the covenant He accepted an infinite price of redemption, and so had bound Himself to offer sanctifying graces without limit, as it were, infinitely. But charismatic graces are very different. There the principle is: The Holy Spirit gives what he wants, where He wants, without regard to the receptivity of the recipient. In fact, one may have a charismatic grace, even that of working miracles, and still not be in the state of sanctifying grace, as we learn from Mt 7:22-23: "Many will say to me on that day: Have we not prophesied in your name? have we not cast out demons by your power? Have we not done many miracles in your name? Then I will tell them: Depart from me, you evildoers. I never knew you."
Which kind of graces, sanctifying or charismatic, do Pius IX and Pius XII speak of as given to her more than to all others? Clearly their words apply primarily at least to sanctifying graces. For Pius IX said her holiness even at the time of the Immaculate Conception was so great that, "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it." This was given her in view of her role as Mother of God, of which Pius XI said (Lux veritatis AAS 23. 513, citing St. Thomas I. 25. 6. ad 4): "The Blessed Virgin from the fact that she is the Mother of God has a sort of infinite dignity from the infinite good that God is."
But we need to make a further distinction. In Lk 11:27-28 (cf. Mt. 12:46-50 and Mk 3:35) a woman in the crowd exclaimed: "Blessed is the womb that bore you..." He replied: "Rather blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it. "Vatican II explains in LG §58: " She received His words, in which her Son, extolling the Kingdom more than the bonds of flesh and blood, proclaimed blessed those who hear and keep the word of God, as she herself was faithfully doing." In other words, Jesus was teaching dramatically that if we compare two things, the dignity of being Mother of God, and the holiness of hearing and keeping the word of God—the second is greater. She of course, was at the peak in both categories. She heard the word of God through the archangel, and kept it, and so conceived and kept the Word of God incarnate.
Therefore the dignity of being Mother of God is a quasi infinite dignity, as we just saw from the words of Pius XI. Yet the holiness coming from hearing the word of God and keeping it is something greater still. The dignity of the Mother of God is one of closeness of relation to the Infinite (the sense of Hebrew qadosh): those who come under the Covenant all have some degree of that closeness or relation to God. But that does not of itself make one capable of the face to face vision of God in the next life. That comes from hearing the word of God and keeping it. In other words, hearing the word and keeping it is the same as faith, as St. Paul uses the word faith. It includes three things: believing what God says, confidence in His word, and obeying His word, what St. Paul (Rom 1:5) calls "the obedience of faith", that is the obedience that faith is. She fulfilled that obedience first of all by saying: "Be it done to me according to your word." She continued and kept this obedience of faith even to the cross, where that obedience of faith was, as we shall bring out later, part of the covenant condition itself, and a sharing in that interior disposition which gave His death all its value (without it the plaint of Isaiah 29:13 would apply), and so a most intimate sharing in the work of redemption.
Really, this obedience of faith in any soul is the indispensable means of taking in sanctifying grace, which consists in transforming the soul so as to make it capable of the face to face vision of God in the next life.
Did she also have charismatic graces, such as the gift of working miracles, speaking in tongues etc? The texts of Pius IX and Pius XII really refer to sanctifying graces, not to charismatic graces. Therefore we cannot know with certainty if she had such graces. They do not of themselves sanctify a person. St Therese of Lisieux liked to think she did not have them. In a poem she wrote:
"I know that at Nazareth, Virgin full of graces. You lived in great poverty, not wishing anything more. No raptures, no miracles, no ecstasies embellished your life, O Queen of the Elect. The number of little ones is very great upon the earth. They can, without trembling, lift up their eyes to you. It pleases you to walk along the common way Incomparable Mother, to guide them to the heavens."
A similar comment is in order on the question of whether or not she ever had, even briefly, the beatific vision in this life. Such a thing is possible: Jesus had it constantly. St. Augustine (De videndo Deo, and in De Genesi ad litteram 12) and St. Thomas (I-II 175. 3. c. ) think Moses had it at times, and also St. Paul. But the reasons given are not solid. Moses in Ex 33:18-23 had asked to see God. But God showed only "His back", even though Ex 33:8-11 said Moses saw God face to face. Their opinion on St. Paul is based on 2 Cor 12:1-4 where Paul tells of being taken up to the third heaven, and hearing words no one may speak. But Thomas and Augustine do not raise the question of what kind of favor Paul had: a high instance of infused contemplation? a charismatic type of vision? or beatific vision?
So we cannot argue that if Moses and Paul had it, she would have had it. We simply do not know, and the thought of St. Therese of Lisieux is impressive indeed. And the conduct of Christ to her in the Gospels is usually not warm, it usually appears such as to cause her to hold on in the dark, in faith—more on this later. We might add the comments of St. Teresa of Avila (Interior Castle 6. 9): "There are many saintly people who have never known what it is to have a favor of this kind [visions etc. ] and there are others who receive such things, even though they are not saintly. It is true that these favors can be a very great help towards reaching a high degree of perfection in the virtues, but anyone who has attained the virtues at the cost of his own work has earned much more merit.". We recall again Mt 7:22-23.
Even though she was full of grace at the start of her life, yet she could still grow, for, as it were, her capacity for grace could increase. In general, a soul will grow in proportion to these things: 1) The greater the dignity of the person, the greater the merit (We will explain merit presently). In her case, the dignity of Mother of God is the highest possible for a creature. (2) The greater the work, the greater the merit: her cooperation in the redemption, as we shall see, was at the peak. (3) The greater the love, the greater the merit. Love of God means the attachment of our will to His. Her will adhered supremely, with no obstacle at all, so that even ordinary household duties, which she saw as the will of the Father for her, were supremely valuable. Jesus Himself saw fit to spend about 30 out of 33 years in an ordinary household life. Further, when a soul must hold on in the dark, as it were, when it seems impossible, then the adherence of the will to that of God is very high. We think of the case of Abraham, ordered to sacrifice his son Isaac, even though he had to believe he would be the father of a great nation through Isaac. Our Lady often had to hold on in the dark: why flee to Egypt, when she knew what He was? When she had to handle Him and care for Him as an infant, her senses would report: nothing special here, but her faith continued to know and to hold. During the 30 years of hidden life, she might well wonder: Is He ever going to start His work? At Cana, He seemed to reject her, but she held on and told the waiters: Do whatever He tells you. (More instances of holding on in the dark in Wm. Most, Our Father's Plan, 129-31).
Her love then not only grew, but must have grown at a rate we might compare to geometrical increases such as 2 x 2 = 4; 4 x 4 = 16 etc.
St. Maximilian Kolbe raises the question: Why at Lourdes did she call herself the Immaculate Conception, instead of the Immaculate One etc. ? He explains well: the Holy Spirit is the Immaculate concept of the Father and the Son. She is His Spouse. A spouse takes the name of the other Spouse. So she took His name. (Cf. H. M. Manteau-Bonamy, Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit (Prow Books, Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL 1977).
We have used the word merit: merit really means participation in the claim to grace that Jesus generated. We get this claim to the extent that we are 1)not only a member of His, 2)but like Him. She was His member, as the noblest merely human member of His Mystical Body. She was also His Mother. She was more like Him than any other creature. Physically, He must have been most like her in a physical way, having only the human genes inherited from her.
Did Our Lady know of her own Immaculate Conception? We saw earlier in our survey of the prophecies that most of the Targums saw the Mother of the Redeemer present at least in the typical sense in Gen 3:15. So what the ordinary Jews could see, she must have seen too. But then, the Church, Pius XII, as we saw above, in Fulgens corona in 1953, gave the reasoning that if she had ever been subject to Satan for even a brief moment, then the victory mentioned in Genesis 3:15 would not have been complete. Therefore, Pius XII said that that text is the foundation of the Immaculate Conception. Again, if the Church could see this, then she, full of grace, must have seen it, and so have seen she had been immaculately conceived.
a) The historicity of the Infancy Gospels (Mt 1-2 and Lk 1-2):
(1) Vatican II LG §57: "This union of the Mother with the Son in the work of salvation is evident from the time of the virginal conception of Christ even to His death. In the first place, it is evident when Mary, arising in haste to visit Elizabeth, is greeted by her as blessed because of her faith... . [it is evident] at His birth, when the Mother of God joyfully showed her firstborn Son—who did not diminish, but consecrated her virginal integrity—to the shepherds and the Magi." A bit earlier, in §55, the same document had shown great meticulousness in inserting cf. before references to Gen 3. 15 and Is 7. 14, to avoid saying flatly that the human author of these verses had seen what the Church now sees in them. But no such reservations were made in the lines just cited from §57, even as to the shepherds and the Magi. We notice too that LG speaks of her "virginal integrity", which surely refers to physical virginity. So her virginity is not just something spiritual as some are claiming.
(2) Paul VI, Allocution of Dec 18, 1966 (Insegnamenti di Paolo VI). He complained that some "try to diminish the historical value of the Gospels themselves, especially those that refer to the birth of Jesus and His infancy. We mention this devaluation briefly so that you may know how to defend with study and faith the consoling certainty that these pages are not inventions of people's fancy, but that they speak the truth... . The authority of the Council has not pronounced differently on this: 'The Sacred Authors wrote... always in such a way that they reported on Jesus with sincerity and truth' (Constitution on Divine Revelation n. 19)."
(3) John Paul II, General Audience of January 28, 1988: "To identify the source of the infancy narrative one must go back to St. Luke's remark: 'Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart'... Mary 'who kept these things in her heart'... could bear witness, after Christ's death and resurrection, in regard to what concerned herself and her role as Mother, precisely in the apostolic period when the New Testament texts were being written, and when the early Christian tradition had its origin."
(4) John L. McKenzie on charges by R. Brown's The Birth of the Messiah (Doubleday, 1977). Brown claimed St. Luke built up a few scant bits of information in parallel to OT incidents. John L. McKenzie, hardly a conservative, wrote a review of Brown's book in National Catholic Reporter, Dec. 2, 1977: "... one wonders how a Gentile convert (or a Gentile proselyte) could have acquired so quickly the mastery of the Greek Old Testament shown in the use of the Old Testament in Luke's infancy narratives. If Luke the physician had been able to study medicine with such success, he would have discovered a cure for cancer... . Luke must have had a source for his Old Testament texts and allusions; and it is hard to think of such a collection of texts without a narrative for them to illustrate, a pre-Lucan infancy narrative is suggested, I beg to submit."
(5) Journal for Study of the New Testament, vol. 15 (July 1982) pp. 30-41, article "Did St. Luke Imitate the Septuagint?" by Wm. G. Most. A study of Luke's use of apodotic kai shows Luke was meticulous in his translation of Hebrew documents at certain points. Luke had said in his opening lines that he used documents. This is a confirmation. Right after showing such care for precision, could we imagine Luke indulging in fancies?
(6) Answers to objections against the infancy Gospels:
a) In Matthew, Mary and Joseph live in a house; in Luke, they are in a stable.—Reply: St. Joseph would find better lodgings as soon as possible. Matthew reports a later time, when the Magi came. The fact that Herod killed all babies up to 2 years of age shows there was quite a bit of time, even if we allow for the probability Herod played it safe.
b) A journey to Egypt will not fit with Luke's account of an orderly return to Nazareth.—Reply: Luke merely gives a compendium of events. Since the Magi came some time after the birth of Jesus, there was time for the presentation in the temple, and for the Magi's visit after that, then the flight into Egypt. For Luke to omit events after the presentation can be an example of telescoping or compendious writing, a phenomenon whose possibility is admitted by all. For example, in Acts 15 we have the account of the Council of Jerusalem in 49 AD, which decided gentile converts did not need to keep the Mosaic law and be circumcised. But the council also added 4 requests, to appease the Jews. First, avoid loose sex—but that is part of basic morality; second, avoid what is strangled; 3)avoid drinking blood; 4) avoid food sacrificed to idols. Yet Paul in 1 Cor 8 ff. said they could eat such food sacrificed to idols, provided only that there was no scandal. Hence many have said: Paul seems not to have known the decision of the Council of Jerusalem, and so probably there were two councils, and Paul knew only one. Hence telescoping is readily admitted. The solution is so easy without telescoping: the letter was addressed not to the whole church, but only to the gentiles of Syria and Cilicia. When Paul worked in that area he did preach all those things (cf. Acts 16:4). But in Corinth there was no need, the requests did not apply there.
c) There is no record of such a census, or of Quirinius being governor at the time.—Reply: A recent study, E. L. Martin, The Star that Astonished the World (ASK Publications, Portland, Or. 25000, 1991) shows that Jesus was born in 3 B. C. . probably in the fall. The time hinges on one thing, the fact that Josephus puts the death of Herod just after a lunar eclipse. Martin shows we must pick the eclipse of Jan. 10, 1 B. C. because all the events that Josephus says took place between Herod's death and the next Passover would take about 12 weeks. The only other eclipse that gave enough time would be that of Sept 15, 5 BC. But since Herod then was very sick, and in Jericho at the time of the eclipse, he would not have stayed in Jericho—extremely hot at that season, while Jerusalem would have been comfortable. But Jan 10 would be comfortable in Jericho. Further, there are secular sources that show there was an enrollment in 3 B. C. to take an oath of allegiance to Augustus (cf. Lewis & Reinhold, Roman Civilization, Source Books II, pp. 34-35 , since in 2 B. C. he was to receive the great title of Father of His Country.
The real governor of Palestine would have gone to Rome for the great celebration. He needed someone to take care of the country in his absence. Since Augustus got the honor on Feb. 5, 2 BC, the governor would have to leave before Nov 1 of 3 BC—Mediterranean was dangerous for sailing after Nov 1. But Quirinius had just completed a successful war to the north, in Cilicia, against the Homonadenses. So he could be an ideal man to put in charge. Luke does not use the noun governor, but a verbal form, governing. Still further, there has been an obscure decade 6 B. C. to 4 A. D. whose events were hard to fit in if we took the birth of Christ to have been in the range 4 to 6 B. C. But with the new dating all these fall into place easily. E. g. Augustus in 1 AD received his 15th acclamation for a victory in 1 AD. If we picked 4 BC for birth of Christ, we cannot find such a victory, but if birth of Christ is 3 BC, then the war would b e running at about the right time and finished in 1 AD.
Martin's work has received fine reviews from astronomers (his work is based on astronomy, and over 600 planetariums have modified their Christmas star show to fit with his findings) and from Classicists, who were concerned about the obscure decade.
Objection: a) Josephus says Herod had a reign of 37 years after being proclaimed king by Romans, and had 34 yrs. after death of Antigonus, which came soon after Herod took Jerusalem. b) Further, his 3 successors, Archelaus, Antipas and Philip started to reign in 4 BC. So Herod died in 4 BC.
Reply: a) That calculation would make the death of Herod fall actually in 3 BC—scholars have had to stretch the date, since there was no eclipse of moon in 3 BC.—But, Herod took Jerusalem late in 36 BC (on Yom Kippur in a sabbatical year, so it was well remembered—and Josephus says Pompey had taken Jerusalem in 63 which was 27 yrs. to the day of Herod's capture of Jerusalem). Using the common accession year dating, we see Herod started his 34 years on Nisan 1 in 35 BC, and those years would end on Nisan 1, 1 BC. So 34 years after 35 BC yields 1 BC for death of Herod after eclipse of Jan 10.—b) As to the 3 successors, Herod lost favor of Augustus in 4 BC, on a false report, was no longer "Friend of Caesar", but "Subject". Antedating of reigns was common—reason here was to make the three seem to connect with the two "royal" sons, of Hasmonean descent, Alexander and Aristobulus, whom Herod executed on false reports from Antipater (do not confuse with Antipas).
b) The Annunciation:
(1) Text of St. Luke: (Above, on p. 19, we explained the greeting,": Full of grace"): Lk 1. 32: The angel says her Son will be "son of the most High". This would not tell her much, for any devout Jew could be called a son of God. In Hosea 11. 1 "Out of Egypt I have called my son," the son is the whole people of Israel.—But then in 1. 32: "The Lord God will give Him the throne of David His father, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his reign will be without end."—Most Jews at the time believed the Messiah, and no one else, would reign forever. So she would easily see that her Son was to be the Messiah. This then would open up for her all the Old Testament prophecies on the Messiah, with or without the help of the Targums we have already seen. She probably saw these things almost at once, or at least, when she pondered all these things in her heart.—Luke 1. 35: "The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you. And therefore also the Holy One to be born of you shall be called the Son of God." That word overshadow would be very telling. It was the term used for the Divine Presence filling the tabernacle in the desert (Exodus 40. 34-35—compare also the cloud filling the newly consecrated temple in Jerusalem in 1 Kings 8. 10). So, precisely because the Divine Presence would fill her, therefore, for that reason, He would be called Son of God. But that would be a unique reason. So it at least pointed to His divinity. Along with this would go all the messianic prophecy texts we have already seen pointing to the divinity of the Messiah.—Pope St. Leo the Great, in the middle of the 5th century, in a homily on the nativity said: "The royal virgin of the line of David is chosen who, since she was to be made pregnant with the Sacred Offspring, first conceived the divine and human Child in her mind, before doing so in her body. And so that she would not be struck with unusual emotions, in ignorance of the heavenly plan, she learned what was to be done in her by the Holy Spirit from the conversation with the angel." Pope Leo XIII (Parta humano generi, Sept 8, 1901) wrote: "O how sweet, how pleasing did the greeting of the angel come to the Blessed Virgin, who then, when Gabriel greeted her, sensed that she had conceived the Word of God by the Holy Spirit." Pope Paul VI speaks of her on this occasion as "taken into dialogue with God" (Marialis cultus, AAS 66. 148).
(2) Vatican II, LG §56: "The Father of mercies willed that the acceptance by the planned-for Mother should come before the Incarnation, so that thus, just as a woman contributed to death, so also a woman should contribute to life... . And so Mary, the daughter of Adam, by consenting to the divine word, became the Mother of Jesus, and embracing the salvific will of God with full heart, held back by no sin, totally dedicated herself as the handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son, by the grace of Almighty God, serving the mystery of the Redemption with Him and under Him. Rightly then do the Holy Fathers judge that Mary was not merely passively employed by God, but was cooperating in free faith and obedience in human salvation. For she, as St. Irenaeus said, 'by obeying became a cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race. ' Hence not a few ancient Fathers gladly agree with him [S. Irenaeus] in their preaching: 'the knot of the disobedience of Eve was loosed by the obedience of Mary. '"
Comments: 1) We note the New Eve theme, especially in the quote from St. Irenaeus. Remarkably, the comparison of the knot objectively refers to Calvary, to cooperation there, for the knot was not untied until then. Yet St. Irenaeus, if we read his context, seems to have had in mind the day of the annunciation. However, he, a Father of the Church , was an instrument in the hands of Providence and so could write more than he himself understood—we think of the comments of Vatican II on Gen 3. 15 and Is 7. 14, where although it is not certain that the original human writers saw all the import, yet the council said the Church later did see it. Similarly, Jeremiah in 31. 31 ff., the prophecy of the new covenant, as we remarked earlier, may not have seen the full import of his own words, that the essential obedience of the new covenant would be that of Christ.
2) We note the stress on obedience. Obedience was the covenant condition at Sinai, and it was to be the covenant condition in the new covenant as well. Cf. LG 3: "... by His obedience He brought about redemption." We recall and compare too Romans 5. 19. The Council will return to the theme of obedience in LG 61: "she cooperated in the work of the Savior ... by obedience... ." Further Calvary was a sacrifice. In a sacrifice we find exterior sign and interior dispositions. Without the interior the exterior would be worthless (cf. Isaiah 29:13). His interior disposition was one of obedience. She shared in that obedience too, willing then what the Father willed, at the cost of going greatly contrary to her immense love (more on this later).
3) Since she totally dedicated herself to the person and work of her Son, she could not have been ignorant of what was going on. We saw evidence of her knowledge earlier in connection with the Targums.
4)We see how unfortunate was the comment of R. Laurentin in Les Evangiles de l'Enfance du Christ, (Tournay, 1982, p. 34 that at the annunciation, she "opposed her human will to the divine will." (The same book several times calls Jesus disobedient, and denies that "full of grace" is the correct translation. )
5) LG 56 cited above said that the Father willed that her consent be given before the incarnation. Leo XIII, Fidentem piumque, Sept 20, 1896. ASS 29. 206: "To humans, who were rushing to eternal ruin, by her admirable consent 'in the name of the whole human race' she brought the Savior already when she received the message of the peace-bringing sacrament which was brought to earth by the angel." The internal quote is from St. Thomas, Summa III. 30. 1. Similarly, Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, AAS 35. 247, citing ST 3. 30. 1: "... and she consented 'in the name of the whole human race,' so that 'a sort of spiritual marriage exists between the Son of God and human nature.'"
This means virginity before, during, and after the birth of Jesus. The oldest formula for that is aeiparthenos, ever virgin. The expression "brothers and sisters of Jesus" found even in the Gospels rests on the breadth of meaning of the Hebrew words for brother and sister. For that matter, our English words are often used very broadly in fraternities and sororities. Given the linguistic unclarity, we must depend on the Magisterium of the Church.
As to the first element, virginity in conceiving Jesus, even R. Brown, in The Virginal Conception & Bodily Resurrection of Jesus (Paulist, 1973) admits on p. 31. n. 37: "It is lucidly clear that Matthew believed in Mary's bodily virginity before the birth of Jesus (1:25). It is hard to prove the case for Luke; but 3:23 indicates that Luke did not think Joseph begot Jesus after the angel's annunciation to Mary." Now if something is lucidly clear in the Gospel, there should be no doubt if one accepts inspiration and therefore inerrancy. Yet Brown, inconsistently, concludes on p. 66: "My judgment, in conclusion, is that the totality of the scientifically controllable evidence leaves an unresolved problem." [italics his in both quotes]. Part of his problem would seem to be his absolute belief in ignorance in Jesus: (p. 46, italics his) "However, if Joseph and Mary knew that their son had no human father but was begotten of God's holy spirit, if it had been revealed to them from the start that the child was to be the Messiah, and if they had not kept this secret from Jesus, how can he not have affirmed that he was the Messiah or that he was the unique Son of God?"
a) Creed of St. Epiphanius (DS 44): "We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, who for us men and for our salvation came down and was made flesh, that is, was born perfectly from holy Mary, the ever virgin [aeiparthenos]." Same wording is found in the Athanasian Creed: DS 46.
b) Ecumenical Council of Constantinople II. Canon 2: "If anyone does not confess that there were two nativities of the Word of God, one before the ages... the other in the last days... who came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the holy, glorious ever virgin Mother of God Mary, and was born of her, let him be anathema."
c) Lateran Council of 649 AD (DS 503): It as not ecumenical, but the Pope was present and approving, and the teaching was given under anathema, so it is equivalent to that of a general council. Vatican II in LG 57 referred to it in a note. Lateran Council said: "If anyone does not in accord with the Holy Fathers acknowledge the holy and ever virgin and immaculate Mary as really and truly the Mother of God, inasmuch as she, in the fullness of time, and without seed, conceived by the Holy Spirit, God the Word Himself, who before all time was born of God the Father, and without loss of integrity brought Him forth, and after His birth preserved her virginity inviolate, let him be condemned."
d) Vatican II. LG 57: "... when the Mother of God showed her first born who did not diminish but consecrated her virginal integrity , to the shepherds and the Magi."
e) John Paul II, General Audience of Jan. 28, 1988: "Mary was therefore a virgin before the birth of Jesus and she remained a virgin in giving birth and after the birth. That is the truth presented by the New Testament texts and which was expressed both by the Fifth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 553 [DS 422] which speaks of Mary as 'ever virgin' and by the Lateran Council in 649 [DS 503] which teaches that 'the Mother of God... Mary... conceived (her Son) through the power of the Holy Spirit without human intervention, and in giving birth to him her virginity remained incorrupted and even after the birth her virginity remained intact."
Comments: 1)There are many other magisterium texts, chiefly: DS 299, 368, 491, 547, 571, 619, 681, 801, 852, 1400, 1425, 1880.
2)There was some hesitation among the early Fathers on virginity in and after birth. This is not strange, given the gradual clarification of doctrine over the centuries. For an account , see Marian Studies, VII, 1956.
3) Some would wish to say her virginity is only a theologoumenon, that is, it was spiritual and symbolic but not physical. However, the magisterium excludes this. The Lateran Council, cited above, speaks of her conceiving without seed, and bringing Him forth without loss of integrity. Vatican II also speaks of integrity. Pope Leo the Great, in his Tome to Flavian (DS 291) said: "She brought Him forth without the loss of virginity even as she conceived Him without its loss." The General Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD (cited from Mansi, 7, 452) taught: "... as was fitting for God, He sealed her womb," Cf. also St. Ambrose, De institutione virginis 8. 52. (In PL 16. 320 and RJ or Jurgens 1327).
Brothers and Sisters of Jesus
Mt. 13. 55 and Mk 6. 3 name the following as brothers of Jesus: James, Joseph (Joses—the manuscripts vary on the spelling), Simon and Judas.
But Mt 27. 56 says at the cross were Mary the mother of James and Joseph. Mark 15, 40 says Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses was there.
So, although the argument is by no means conclusive, it seems likely that the first two, James and Joseph (Joses) had a mother other than the Mother of Jesus.
Thus we have an indication that the term brother was used for those who were not sons of Mary the Mother of Jesus. So the same easily could be the case with the other two, Simon and Judas.
More important, if Mary had other natural sons and daughters too at the time of the cross, it would be strange for Jesus to ask John to take care of her. Especially, James the "brother of the Lord" was alive in 49 AD (Gal 1:19). He should have taken care of her.
Lot, who was the nephew of Abraham (cf. Gen 11. 27-31) is called his brother in Gen 13. 8 and 14. 14-16.
The Hebrew and Aramaic ah was used for various types of relations: Cf. Michael Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic (Bar Ilan University Press, Ramat-Gan, Israel, 1990, p. 45. Hebrew had no word for cousin. They could say ben-dod which means son of a paternal uncle, but for other kinds of cousins they would need a complex phrase, such as "the son of the brother of his mother" or, "the son of the sister of his mother". For complex Aramaic expressions see Sokoloff, p. 111. and 139.
Objection 1: We should not consider the Hebrew—Greek did have a word for cousin and other kinds of relatives also, and the Gospels do not use the other specific words for the relatives of Jesus. They use only Greek adelphos, which means a real brother.
Reply 1: The Septuagint (the old Greek translation of the Hebrew OT—abbreviated LXX) uses Greek adelphos, brother, for Lot—who as mentioned above, was really a nephew.
Furthermore, the writers of the Gospels and Epistles often had Hebrew words in mind when they wrote Greek words. This is specially true with St. Paul. And, as we shall see presently, there is strong evidence that St. Luke at some points was translating Hebrew documents—two kinds of Hebrew—with meticulous care.
The LXX for Mal 1:2-3 has this: "I have loved Jacob and hated Esau." St. Paul in Rom 9:13 quotes it the same way in Greek. Yet the LXX translators knew both Hebrew and Greek and so did Paul, yet they used a very odd, even potentially misleading Hebrew expression. How did it happen? Hebrew and Aramaic lacked the degrees of comparison (such as: good, better, best; clear, clearer, clearest) and so they had to find other way to express such ideas. Where we would say: "I love one more, the other less", the Hebrew said "I love the one and hate the other." In Luke 14:26 Our Lord tells us that we must hate our parents." Again, it means to love them less than one loves Christ. Similarly, in 1 Cor 1:17 Paul says: "Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach"—yet Paul had just said he did baptize some. He really means, in the Hebrew way of speaking: My more important mission was to preach, less important was to baptize.
St. Paul in 1 Thes 4:5 speaks of the gentiles "who do not know God". He uses "know" in the sense of Hebrew yada , a broader word, to know and to love. In fact quite a few times we must think of what Hebrew word was in Paul's mind to fully understand his Greek words.
All scholars admit that St. Luke's Gospel has more Semitisms than the books written by Semites (even though Luke was not a Semite himself, but a Greek Physician). Why? It had been thought that Luke did this to imitate the style of the LXX but a study I made (In my article, "Did St. Luke Imitate the Septuagint?" published in the international Journal for Study of the New Testament (July 1982, pp. 30-41 from the University of Sheffield, England) showed statistically that Luke did not try to imitate the Septuagint. I made a study of a very strange Semitism in Luke, the apodotic kai , which reflects Hebrew apodotic wau. Here is an example from Luke 5:1: "And it happened—when the crowds pressed on Him to hear the word of God—and He stood by the Lake. The underlined and would be in place in Hebrew—but not in Greek, not even in Aramaic. By actual count, St. Luke uses it only about 20 to 25% of the times he would use it if he were imitating the Septuagint. Clearly that was not his reason for using it. So why did he do it at all? In his opening lines, St. Luke says he took great care, spoke to eye-witnesses, and read written accounts about Jesus. Now written accounts could have been in Greek (a few Jews grew up speaking Greek), Hebrew, or Aramaic. So it is possible that St. Luke had used written accounts in those languages. Greek on Greek would not show, of course , but if he used Hebrew documents part of the time, and if he translated them with meticulous care—so extreme that he would bring a Hebrew structure into Greek, where it did not belong—then we could explain what he did. The odd stricture was not normal in Aramaic either, so we gather that St. Luke seems to have used, at some points, not at all points, Hebrew documents, and that he translated them with extreme care. Luke knew how to write fine Greek—yet he did this, Why? It was his extreme care to be faithful to the original texts he used.—So again, we need to know the underlying Hebrew to understand (of course in this item, English translations just skip the and—it appears only if we read St. Luke in Greek).
There is an important word in Romans 5:19 which speaks of the many as becoming sinful—original sin. Of course, St. Paul really means all. Yet the Greek he uses is polloi. In normal Greek it always means just many, not all. But if we know the Hebrew in Paul's mind it clears up. There was a strange word rabbim which is first known in Isaiah 53, the prophecy of the passion. By context there we see it is clear that it means all, yet it also means many—to be more exact, it means the all who are many. If I were in a room with 3 others, I could say all, but could not say many. Now if we use a Greek concordance to find every place in St. Paul where polloi is used as a noun, it always, without exception, means all, as we gather from context, such as that of Rom. 5:19. Hence we really need to go back to the Hebrew to understand Paul's Greek here.
Again, St. Paul often uses the Greek dikaiosyne not in the narrow usual Greek sense, but in the broad sense of Hebrew sedaqah.
There are many other times in the NT where we must consider the underlying Hebrew in order to get the right sense of the Greek. We have given only samples, but they should be enough to show how the NT writers worked, and the need to avoid stopping with the Greek and insisting that we should ignore the underlying Hebrew, as those do who point out that Greek had words for cousins and other relatives, even though Hebrew did not.
Objection 2: J. P. Meier, in A Marginal Jew (Doubleday, 1991, pp. 325-26) says that "The New Testament is not translation Greek", and says it would be a "wooden" translation to follow the Hebrew usage on brother.
Reply 2: Many scholars do think part or all of the Gospels were translation Greek. The evidence cited above in Journal for Study of the New Testament seems to show that.
Further we have just given extensive evidence to show that regardless of whether or not the writers were translating, they often used Greek words in such a way that to understand them we must look to the underlying Hebrew. This is specially true of Paul in spite of Meier's claim that Paul was not translating and that he knew "James the brother of the Lord" in person.
Meier also (326-27) asserts that Josephus, a Jew writing in Greek does at times use the special word for cousin, yet he does use brother for the "brothers of Jesus."—We reply that we grant Josephus does this. But, did Josephus have direct information on the real nature of the "brothers' of Jesus. Not very likely. Meier does not even mention this point.
In Col 4:10 the Greek for cousin, anepsios, is used. But this is the only time in all the NT. Otherwise, we have the constant following of Hebrew patterns explained above. Further, Pauline authorship of Col is debated. The external witnesses in favor of his authorship easily outweigh the alleged internal evidence. However it is possible that Paul, like modern Popes, had someone else write the letter for him, then went over it and signed it. In that case, his secretary may be responsible for the anepsios. The usual Greek for brother adelphos, is used 5 times in Col, and not once in the sense of blood brother. It is always in the broad sense.
Objection 3: Meier argues, p. 323, that if we want to say ah could mean cousin, then we should read Mt 12:50 thus: "Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my male cousin, my female cousin, and my mother." Similarly, on p. 357 he says that Mk 3:35 should read "not even his cousins believed in him."
Reply 3: Meier seems to be deliberately obtuse here. If ah had the broad meaning, we should keep it in translation, not narrowing it to cousin—it would include cousin, but not be limited to it.
Objection 4, on Mt 1. 25: Protestants like to point to two words here, "until" and "firstborn".
Until: Most ancient words have a broad span of possible meanings. Sometimes the word for until leaves room for a change after the time point indicated. However not nearly always. In Dt. 34:6 Moses was buried, "and to this day no one knows where the grave is." That was true in the day of the writer of Dt—it is still true even today. In Psalm 110:1, as interpreted by Jesus Himself (Mt. 22-42-46),"The Lord said to my [David's] Lord: 'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool. '" Of course, Jesus was not to stop being at the right hand of the Father at any point. So the word until here does not mean a change of status. Psalm 72:7, a messianic Psalm, says that in his days "peace will abound until the moon is no more." Again, the power of the Messiah is not to stop when the moon no longer gives its light (Mt. 24:29). In 2 Samuel 6:23 that David's wife Michal had no son "until the day of her death." Of course, she did not have one after that! In Mt. 11:23 Our Lord says that if the miracles done in Capernaum had been done in Sodom, "it would have lasted until the present day." Had it lasted, Jesus did not intend to destroy it in His time. In Mt 28:20 Jesus promised to be with His Church, His followers until the end of the world—nor would He desert them in eternity. In Romans 8:22 St. Paul says that all creation groans, waiting for there revelation of the sons of God until Paul's day. Nor did it stop then, that will continue until the restoration at the end. In 1 Timothy 4:13 the Apostle tells Timothy to devote himself to reading, exhortation and teaching "until I come." He did not mean Timothy should stop such things when Paul did come.—and there are more, but these should be more than enough to show that not always does until in OT and NT, mean a change of things is to come at the point referred to.
Even J. P. Meier, who works so strenuously to try to show that most probably Jesus had real siblings, admits that the arguments from "until" proves nothing (In CBQ Jan. 1992, pp. 9-11).
Firstborn: Jesus is called that in Luke 2:7 (and also in Mt 1:25 if we take the Vulgate addition to the Greek). This reflects Hebrew bekor which chiefly expressed the privileged position of the firstborn among other children. It need not imply there were actually others. We can see this from a Greek tomb inscription at Tel el Yaoudieh (cf. Biblica 11, 1930 369-90) for a mother who died in childbirth: "In the pain of delivering my firstborn child, destiny brought me to the end of life." For another epitaph of the same sort, from Leontopolis, see Biblical Archaeology Review, Sept/Oct, 1992, p. 56.
Objection 5: Some early Christian writers think the brothers were true siblings.
Reply: Meier, who so diligently collects all data against virginity after the birth of Jesus, mentions only four: (1)Hegesippus, in the second century. Yet Meier admits on p. 329: "... the testimony is not without its problems and possible self-contradictions"; (2)Tertullian—yet Meier admits that it was his "fierce opposition to [the] docetic view of Christ's humanity' that caused him to say this. In fact, Tertullian even, in the same vein, argued that the body of Jesus was ugly (On the Flesh of Christ 9)! He was a real extremist, as shown by the fact that even the Montanists were not severe enough in morality—he formed his own subsect; (3) Meier also suggests that two passages of St. Irenaeus might imply a denial of virginity—in one Irenaeus works out in detail the parallel between Adam and Christ, for the sake of his favorite "recapitulation" theology; in the other, Irenaeus develops the New Eve theme.—It is hard to see any hint of a denial of virginity in these passages. Even Meier admits the texts are not probative; (4) Helvidius in the 4th century.—But these few texts are little compared to the extensive Patristic support of perpetual virginity. Cf. Marian Studies , VIII, 1956, pp. 47-93. In his summary of conclusions, pp. 331-32, Meier does not even mention these early writers.
Objection 6: Meier, p. 331, says we have the criterion of multiple attestation", namely, Paul, Mark, John, Josephus and perhaps Luke speak of the brothers of Jesus.
Reply 6: He is begging the question. He has not proved that any of them mean true sibling by brother. Meier adds that the natural sense of brother is sibling—but we have shown in reply 2 above that it need not be so. He also says that there is no clear case in the NT where brother means anything but true brother or half-brother. Again he is begging the question: he has not shown that even one of the texts has to mean sibling.
Conclusion: Meier himself admits, on p. 331, that "all of these arguments even when taken together cannot produce absolute certitude." We add: In Mk 3:20-21 his relatives go out to get Him—younger brothers would not have done it in that culture—and He was the firstborn.—And at age 12 in Temple, if there were younger brothers, they would have been along—women did not have to go. So she would have stayed home with the younger ones.
So we can see that there are no solid evidences in Scripture that Our Lady had other children. We have just answered all claims. But the decisive reason is the teaching of the Church. The most ancient creeds all call her aei-parthenos = "Ever-virgin".
Meier seems to have an axe to grind. In his long CBQ article, 1992, pp. 1-28, he says on the last page that we must ask whether the hierarchy of truths should not let us accept Protestants into the Catholic Church without asking them to believe in Our Lady's perpetual virginity. There is a hierarchy of truths, in that some are more basic than others. But this does not at all mean we can countenance denial of even one doctrine taught repeatedly by the Ordinary Magisterium and the most ancient Creeds—and therefore infallible. Really, if some Protestants seemed to enter the Church, but did not accept the teaching authority, they would not be really Catholics, even if they accepted all but one of our teachings. That authority if really accepted leads them to accept all, not all minus one.
Even Meier, so inclined to deny perpetual virginity, admits (pp. 340-41) that there is a strong rabbinic tradition that Moses, after his first contact with God, refrained from knowing his wife. This first appears in Philo, is taken up the by rabbis. Therefore, if Moses with only an external contact with God did that way, what of Our Lady who was filled with the divine presence at the conception of Jesus, and carried divinity itself within her for nine months?
Actually, Luther himself and Calvin, as Meier admits on p. 319 of his book, accepted Our Lady's perpetual virginity. Why then does Meier argue so strongly against it?
Really, Protestants should not, if they were logical, appeal to Scripture at all for anything—for they have no means whatsoever of determining which books are inspired. Luther thought that if a book preached justification by faith strongly, it was inspired, otherwise not. But sadly, he never proved that was the standard—he, or I could write such a book, and it would not be inspired. And many books of Scripture do not even mention justification by faith. Also sadly: Luther did not know what St. Paul meant by the word faith—on that Cf. the standard Protestant reference work, Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Supplement, p. 333.
1)History of the Title Theotokos:
The title Theotokos, Mother of God, is first known to have appeared in an Egyptian papyrus containing parts of the prayer Sub tuum praesidium, from the third century. It was found in 1938 in Alexandria, Egypt, by a Protestant named Roberts. The title also appears in the Greek text of a work by St. Hippolytus, (died 235) De Benedictionibus Jacob (cf. Marian Studies VI, p. 49). However, since it does not appear in the Georgian translation of the text, the authenticity of the occurrence of the word Theotokos is debated. The church historian Socrates reports that the title Theotokos was used by Origen (died c 235) in his commentary on Romans—mostly now lost. The first incontrovertible use of Theotokos is in a letter of Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria ( RJ 680. died 328).
Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople (c. 381-451) rejected the title Theotokos, wanted to use instead Christotokos or Anthropotokos. He defended the sermons of Anastasius, one of his priests, who rejected the Theotokos. Nestorius asked for a council. He was deposed by the Council of Ephesus in 431 and his writings were burned by order of the Emperor Theodosius II. However, in 1895 a complete treatise of his was found in a Syriac version. It is called the Bazaar of Heraclides of Damascus—a name Nestorius used to hide his identity. It attacks the decisions of the Council of Ephesus and of St. Cyril of Alexandria. Cyril drew up 12 Anathemas against Nestorius , which were approved by the Council. They are found in his Letter 17. (There are 12 counter anathemas supposedly by Nestorius, which are spurious). Some scholars today insist Nestorius was not a Nestorian, that he even condemned Nestorianism. But it is hard for us to say such a thing when we have so little of his work, whereas the Council and St. Cyril had his works, and could talk to Nestorius in person. However, we must admit that Cyril was a harsh person. Had he shown more tact a serious heresy might have been avoided.
To put two persons in Christ would make the redemption finite, and would leave opening for teaching ignorance in Jesus. The Agnoites, an offshoot of Nestorianism, did that. Their ideas were condemned by Pope Vigilius in 553 AD: DS 419. If there were two persons in Christ, Mary would be the Mother of only the human person, and hence could not be called Mother of God. But if there is only one person, a divine person, then she would be the Mother not of the divine nature, but of the person who is divine. This is in a way parallel to the normal human case in which Mrs. Jones is the mother of John Jones—we do not say she is the mother only of the body of John Jones, but of the person John Jones.
St. Gregory of Nazianzus in his Epistle 101. 4-6 RJ 1017) made the title Theotokos the touchstone of orthodoxy. We could summarize, and clarify, his argument thus: If there were two persons in Christ, she would be the Mother of only the human person. If there were only one nature in Christ, and that human, she would not be the Mother of God. If there were only one nature in Christ, divine nature, she would not be the Mother of Christ. Hence the Theotokos implies one person, a divine person, and two natures, divine and human. Similarly, St. Cyril of Alexandria, in his Homily 15 on the Incarnation, also makes Theotokos the test of orthodoxy.
2)Dignity of Divine Motherhood:
Plato. in his Symposium 203 said: "No god associates with man." He did know of a great supreme God, with a concept much like ours, except his God was not the Creator. He also believed in secondary gods, which had a body finer than clouds, and a soul. Yet none of these would stoop to associate with us. In fact, to obtain favors from them we should employ the help of a class of beings Plato called daimones, who were also beings with body and soul—with a body like ours, of very high quality. (He seems to have thought the Olympian gods, such as the adulterous Zeus, were of this type). Aristotle similarly in his Nichomachean Ethics 8. 7 said that for friendship, there should not be too great a gap between the friends. If it were very great, no friendship would be possible. So, no friendship of a god with a man would be possible. What would these philosophers think if they learned that the great, supreme, transcendent God actually became man. That He took on a human nature which would be joined to Him in one person, a divine Person.
We have grown up with these thoughts, and so they never did have the impact on us they had with the world of that time. And further, we have become so used to the formula: two natures, one Divine Person, that we do not really grasp the import. If we follow the philosophical framework of Aristotle, we would have to say that the sacred humanity received a relation to the second Person of the Holy Trinity, but that that Person took on no relation: would have been a change in Him! We sense there is something amiss here. Best we should simply say we have another example of transcendence.
What then of her in whose womb He took flesh, where He remained, physically developing for 9 months!. No wonder Pius XI following St. Thomas said, as we saw above, that the dignity of the Mother of God is a quasi-infinite dignity from the infinite good that God is. Philo, whose thought was taken up by the Rabbis as we saw above was very right in saying that Moses thought it unthinkable to have legitimate sex with his wife after just one brief encounter with God—what of her who carried Him 9 months! To think that some people with little or no perception of divine matters could suppose she had four more sons and at least two daughters.
And what should we think of Wilfrid Harrington (commentary on Mark, Glazier, 1979, p. 47), and others like him who erred so outrageously in commenting on Mark 3:20-35 as to suggest that she in Mk 3:20 did not believe in Him, and went along with others to seize Him? And Harrington added, incredibly, that the passage "may be seen to distinguish those who stood outside the sphere of salvation and those who are within it." Which implies that Mary was outside the sphere of salvation! This also supposes that Mark clashes with Luke, for Luke pictures her as blessed because of her faith. And Vatican II said in LG 56 that at the annunciation Mary "embracing the salvific will of God with full heart... totally dedicated herself... to the person and work of her Son."
Harrington got into this mistake by a poor analysis of the passage of Mk 3:20-25. There are three segments in that passage: (1) Those about Him (in Greek it is hoi par' autou—an ambiguous expression that could mean His relatives or friends or those about Him) see that He is so busy preaching to the crowds that He does not take time to eat. They say that He is beside Himself, and go out to get Him forcefully. (2)The scribes from Jerusalem say He casts out devils by Beelzebul. He told them that was the unforgivable sin. He did not mean God would simply refuse to forgive. He meant that their hardness was such that it was hardly likely they could ever repent. (3) His Mother and relatives come to the edge of the crowd, and He comments that those who hear and keep the word of God are His mother, brother, and sister.
Harrington is certain that the groups in segments 1 and 3 are the same. This is not at all certain, for Form Criticism shows us that many Gospel passages are pieced together out of units that once were separate. Here in particular, the interjection of the charge of the scribes could at least suggest that units 1 and 3 are not connected. But Harrington is certain: "For Mark [3. 31-35] is a continuation of vv. 20-21... his own did not receive him." And he adds, incredibly, that the passage "may be seen to distinguish those who stood outside the sphere of salvation and those who are within it." Which implies that Mary was outside the sphere of salvation!
Still further, even if we would think she was in the group in segment one of Mk 3:20-35, it would not follow that she too did not believe in Him. She may well have gone along to try to restrain those who did not believe. Even very ordinary Mothers are apt to believe in their sons even when the evidence is against them.
Vatican II warns us in Dei Verbum §12: "Since Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted with the same Spirit by whom it was written, to rightly get the sense of the sacred texts we must look not less diligently to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture, taking into account the living Tradition of the Church, and the analogy of faith." So one Evangelist definitely cannot contradict another.
a) The Scene:
Commentators often worry about the plural "their" purification. Really, Luke is being general, for Mary and Joseph went up to Jerusalem with Jesus, and all took part in the event. Jerusalem was only 5 miles from Bethlehem. Leviticus 12. 2-8 prescribed that a mother was ritually unclean—was not to touch anything sacred or enter the temple—for 40 days after the birth of a son. After that she was to bring to a priest serving that week in the temple, a one year old lamb for a holocaust and a young pigeon or turtledove for expiation. If she could not afford the lamb, she would bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons. Of course, the birth of Jesus did not make His Mother unclean in any sense. But Mary was always obedient to the law, did not claim she was an exception, even though that would have been supremely true. We think of the words of Jesus to John the Baptist in Mt 3. 15 that He willed to fulfill everything that righteousness called for.
In Exodus 1. 1-2 God ordered: "Consecrate to me every firstborn... both human and animal." The firstborn human was to be redeemed by paying five shekels of the sanctuary to member of a priestly family, according to Numbers 18. 15-16.
b) The Significance:
Jesus was not really being bought back. He was formally turning Himself over. This was, as it were, the offertory of the Great Sacrifice. The Epistle to the Hebrews 10. 5 says: "When Christ came into the world, he said: 'Sacrifices and offerings you did not will, but you prepared a body for me. You took no pleasure in burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said, 'Behold, I come to do your will, O God'" The will of the Father was that He should go to the cross.
How could Jesus make such an act of will when He first was conceived? Pope Pius XII, in the encyclical Mystici Corporis , June 29, 1943, DS 3812 taught: "But the most loving knowledge of this kind, with which the divine Redeemer pursued us from the first moment of the Incarnation, surpasses the diligent grasp of any human mind; for by the blessed vision which He enjoyed when just received in the womb of the Mother of God, He has all the members of the Mystical Body continuously and perpetually present to Himself, and embraces them with salvific love... . In the manger, on the Cross, in the eternal glory of the Father, Christ has all the members of the Church before Him and joined to Him far more clearly and far more lovingly than a mother has a son on her lap, or than each one knows and loves himself." The Pope means that the human soul of Christ from the very first instant saw the beatific vision, in which all knowledge is contained. By means of it He could know each member of His mystical body, and could make the offering pictured in the Epistle to the Hebrews. This same teaching has been repeated many times, e. g, in Sempiternus Rex, Sept 8, 1951, DS 3905 and Haurietis aquas, May 15, 1956, DS 3924, For additional texts and data on Scriptural , Patristic, and speculative aspects of the matter, cf. Wm. G. Most, The Consciousness of Christ, Christendom, Front Royal, 1980.
Even without the help of the magisterium, it is easy to show theologically that Jesus human soul not only happened to have that vision, but had to. For any soul to have the beatific vision, two things are required: (1) elevation of its power to know by grace. Of course this was present in Jesus. (2) The divinity needs to join itself directly to the human mind without even an image in between (images are finite, God is infinite). Then the divinity does the work an image would have done. But in Jesus, not just His human mind, but His entire humanity was joined most directly to the divinity, in the hypostatic union, that is, union within the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. So the union of His mind with the divinity is inescapable, and is far closer than that of an ordinary soul that attains the vision.
It follows that He surely could and did make the offering at the first instant of which Hebrews speaks. The vision of all He had to endure was wearing, a constant stress, that increased from its very prolongation. Twice during His public life He allowed us to see within Himself, as it were. In Luke 12. 50 He said: "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished." That is, I must be plunged into the deep waters of suffering; I cannot be comfortable until it is over with. In John 12. 27 He allowed Himself to break into a discourse to a crowd not long before His death: "Now is my heart troubled. What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour." Then not long after, all the tension grew to such a point that the capillaries near the sweat glands burst, and poured out their red blood through His skin: the agony in the garden. Such a phenomenon is medically known as hematidrosis. In passing we note: If someone has a long running anxiety, which normal measures do not remove, that one can accept it as a means of greater likeness to Christ.
Someone will ask: How could He suffer when He had the beatific vision? We reply: Let us think of a mountain 25, 000 feet high. It can easily happen that on some days the peak will stick out through black clouds, and be in calm and sunshine. But all the lower slopes will be in darkness and storm. Similarly, a human has many levels of operation, both in body and in soul. There can be a peace on the fine point of the soul, as St. Francis de Sales calls it, while all the lower slopes are in great distress. Some mystics have had such an experience. On this cf. The Consciousness of Christ, pp. 150-153.
His Mother too knew, as we have seen, through her understanding of the Old Testament prophecies. If even the stiff-necked Jews could know so much as the Targums show, then she, full of grace would know all the more clearly. So she knew all too much for comfort even before the prophecy of the sword that Simeon gave. And as His public life advanced, it would be easy, and frightening, to see events moving to their climax.
At the presentation, He would renew in His heart the offering He made on entering into this world. In unison with His offering, she would renew her fiat. This was, then truly the offertory of the Great Sacrifice.
a) Reasons for the conduct of Jesus:
Some, unfortunately, have called His action of staying behind disobedience, in obedience to the higher command of His Father. But this is very unsuitable. In Mat 3. 15 when John the Baptist was unwilling to baptize Him, Jesus said that it was right to fulfill everything that righteousness calls for. Strictly, there was no command of Mary or Joseph not to do as He did.
Why did He do so? There is a widespread pattern, revealed in Scripture, in which God wills to put people into situations in which they must, as it were, hold on to His will in the dark, i.e. , without being able to see why or how it is possible. For example, Abraham had been told he would be the father of a great nation through Isaac. But then, when Isaac was still a little boy, God told him to offer Isaac in sacrifice. This seemed to conflict. Abraham did not question: he just went ahead, in the dark. If we would hold the majority opinion that the Jews did not know of retribution in the next life until the 2nd century B. C. , we would say that they had to hold on in the dark: they knew God was just, but so often they saw that His justice did not work out even to the end of the life of an individual: the wicked would continue to prosper, the just to suffer. There are numerous other instances. The conduct of Jesus at age 12 is one, where Mary and Joseph had to hold on in the dark. At Cana it will be similar. And there are many other instances, cf. Wm. G. Most, Our Father's Plan, Trinity, 1988, chapter 14. The basic idea is this: The only thing free in a person is the free will. If one then aligns that will perfectly with the will of the Father, that is complete perfection. To align that will with the will of the Father in cases where it seems impossible—that requires a most intense holding to the will of God. That gives room for greater spiritual growth. (Cf. also the factor of somatic resonance, Our Father's Plan, chapter 16). Now Our Lady was full of grace even at the start. But her capacity, as it were, could grow. To put her in situations where she had to hold on in the dark was a sign of great love.
b) The question of Mary's knowledge:
Luke 2. 30 reports " And they did not understand the word he spoke to them." This does not mean that she did not know who He was. We already saw in a study of the OT prophecies and Targums that she did. What she would not grasp was the strange change in the pattern of His conduct: previously, always thoughtful, now quite different.
One might be tempted to think she had no need for believing without seeing—she had seen marvelous things. But yet there was for her a constant clash of what her senses reported, and what her faith said. Her senses would report: this seems like a very ordinary baby, with ordinary needs. Or she would be tempted to wonder at His staying home for 30 years when He was sent for so great a mission. Her faith would report: I must believe even so. One extraordinary Eucharistic minister once told me that ever since he was allowed to handle the Sacred Host, he found greater temptations against faith. That would be from the same sort of clash, except that for her it was much stronger and clearer.
a) Seeming rejection: She knew in her faith that He was not rejecting her, in spite of His words, "What is it to me and to you", which, as we see from OT usages, commonly had a tone of rejection or something similar. For she told the waiters to do whatever He would tell them to do. Again, she was holding on in the dark.
b) The term "woman": Of course, that term was a respectful one. But it would seem very strange. The key to the problem is in the fact that the Evangelists did not always report the very words of Jesus, though they would keep the sense. So we are permitted to think it was the Evangelist who changed the word here. A very plausible reason would be to tie together four places in Scripture. John Paul II, following a view of many exegetes, said, as we saw above, in his Encyclical, Redemptoris Mater, #24, "It is significant that, as he speaks to his mother from the Cross, he calls her 'woman' and says to her: "Woman, behold your son! Moreover, he had addressed her by the same term at Cana too (cf. Jn 2:4)... . . she... remains in that mystery as 'the woman' spoken of by the Book of Genesis (3:15) at the beginning and by the Apocalypse (12:1) at the end of the history of salvation."
c) Intercession: It is obvious that we may see in this episode an example of the power of her intercession. He worked His first miracle, and advanced His hour. There is no need to think that when He spoke of His hour, He always meant only the hour of His passion, though that was often true. It could also mean, as we see here, the hour to first manifest His power to inaugurate His public life.
a) Terminology: The objective redemption is the once-for-all acquisition by the sacrifice of Calvary of the claim to all grace and forgiveness. The subjective redemption is the giving out of that grace and forgiveness throughout all ages after Calvary.
Remote cooperation in the objective redemption is being the Mother of the Redeemer, in faith and obedience furnishing Him with the flesh and blood in which He could die. Immediate cooperation is some role in the sacrifice of Calvary. A further question: just how did that cooperation operate? What was the nature of that role?
b) How did the Redemption operate?: Of course, Jesus redeemed us by His death. But we must go deeper, and ask in what way His death accomplished that.
Mt 20. 28: "The Son of Man... came to give His life as a ransom for many." (Mt. 10. 45 is the same).
Gal. 3. 13: "Christ has bought us back from the curse of the law, by becoming a curse for us." (Cf. also Gal 4. 5).
1 Cor. 6. 20 (cf. 7. 23):"You were bought at a price."
Comment: The question had to arise: to whom was the price or ransom paid? It would seem at first sight that it was paid to the one who held our race in captivity, to Satan. St. Ambrose, in Epistle 72 went so far as to accept that. Most Fathers and later writers recoiled from that. Yet the idea that sin was a debt was very ancient. It is found for example in the Our Father: "Forgive us our debts"
St. Athanasius probably was not original in the matter, but he does tell us of four possible answers: (1) Substitution: "He takes to Himself a body capable of death that it, by partaking of the Lord who is above all, might be worthy to die instead of all... . All being considered to have died in Him. [Cf. 2 Cor 5. 14]." (On the Incarnation 9). (2) Blunting or absorbing the impact of a force. He died so that "the law involving the ruin of men might be undone, inasmuch as its power was fully spent in the Lord's body." (On the Incarnation 8). (3)Physical-mystical solidarity: "Such a union was made so He might join what was by nature divine with what was by nature human, so (human) salvation and divinization might be secure." (Second Oration Against the Arians 70). The notion is that all humanity forms a unit, a solidarity. But the humanity of Christ is part of that solidarity. Further, in Him that nature is joined in one Person to the divinity. So a power spreads out from the divinity through His humanity to all humanity to heal it. (4) Payment of a debt: "The Word of God... by offering His own temple and corporeal instrument for the life of all, satisfied the debt by His death." (On the Incarnation 9).
St. Anselm (1033—1109) in Cur Deus homo? following up on the debt idea, said that man was created for obedience, service, devotion to God. By sin he evaded it. So God had to demand satisfaction in justice. Hence the Incarnation, the means of satisfying the debt.
Comment: Many have been displeased with the Anselmian theory. First, God does not have to do anything. Second, people could say: If someone offends me, I often just let it go. Why cannot God be so kind?
3) Further development on sin as a debt:
However, the notion of sin as a debt to be paid is found in the OT, in intertestamental literature (where Hebrew hobah is often used to mean sin, while its basic sense is debt. It is found in the NT. It is found widely in rabbinic literature. (cf. Appendix, Sedaqah to Wm. Most, St. Paul commentary)
Pope Paul VI, in Indulgentiarum doctrina, Jan 9, 1967. AAS 59. 7, wrote: "Every sin brings with it a disturbance of the universal order, which God arranged in His inexpressible wisdom and infinite love... So it is necessary for the full remission and reparation of sins... not only that friendship with God be restored by a sincere conversion of heart, and that the offense against His wisdom and goodness be expiated, but also that all the goods, both individual and social, and those that belong to the universal order, lessened or destroyed by sin, be fully reestablished, either through voluntary reparation... or through the suffering of penalties."
The same thought is brought out well in the image of a two-pan scales by Rabbi Simeon ben Eleazar, in Tosefta, Kiddushin 1. 14. He wrote c 170 AD, and says he is quoting Rabbi Meir, a disciple of the great Rabbi Akiba: "Someone has carried out one commandment. Blessings [on him]. He has tipped the scales to the side of merit for himself and for the world. Someone has committed a transgression. Woe [to him]. He has tipped the scales to the side of debt for himself and for the world."
A sinner takes from one pan of the scale what he has no right to. The scale is out of balance. The holiness of God wants everything morally right, and so 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 some other pleasure he could have lawfully had. But in either case, he only begins—for the imbalance from even one mortal sin is infinite. Hence if the Father wanted full reparation—he was not obliged—the only way to accomplish it would be to send a Divine Person to become man.
So there is a price of redemption, not paid of course to Satan, nor to the Father (He was not the captor) but to the objective order, to rebalance it, as willed by the holiness of God. This price is the sacrificial death of Christ, done in obedience: cf. Romans 5. 19 and LG 3. Another aspect is that of covenant, as foretold by Jeremiah 31. 31ff. The obedient death of Christ was the covenant condition. Without obedience it would have been a tragedy, not a redemption. We note the threefold aspect: covenant, sacrifice, payment of debt or rebalance of objective order.
A sinner, as we said, takes from one pan what he has no right to take. Jesus in His painful death gave back more than all sinners have taken. And the infinity of His Person would have made even a slight thing from Him infinitely valuable. His Mother too, completely sinless, joined in that rebalance as we shall see. (The infinity of His offering does not dispense us, His members, from doing what we can. St. Paul makes clear that we are saved and made holy if and to the extent that we are not only members of Christ, but also like Him. That likeness of course must include this sharing in rebalancing. St. Paul says we are members of Christ: 1 Cor 12. 12-27. We must do all with Him: Rom 6. 3-8; 8. 18; Col 3. 1-4. We must be like Him: Rom 8. 9, 13 & 17. What we can call merit is really our getting on the claim generated by Christ, by being His members and being like Him. )
4) Patristic teaching on the New Eve:
The use of the New Eve theme begins with St. Justin the Martyr, around 150 AD. It is then taken up widely in the other Fathers. St. Paul had spoken of Christ as the New or Second Adam. The Fathers teach there was also a New or Second Eve. The thought is this: Just as the first Eve really contributed to bringing down the damage of original sin on our race, so the New Eve, Mary , really contributed to reversing that damage.
a) St. Justin Martyr, ( c. 100-165) Dialogue with Trypho 100: "... we have understood that He came forth from the Father before all things... and was made man of the Virgin, so that the disobedience brought on by the serpent might be canceled out in the same manner in which It had begun. For Eve, being untouched and a virgin, conceiving the word from the serpent, bought forth disobedience and death. But Mary the Virgin, having received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced to her that the spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, so that the Holy One born of her would be the Son of God, answered: 'Be it done to me according to your word.'"
b) St. Irenaeus (c. 120-202) Against Heresies III. 22. 4: "Just as Eve... being disobedient, because a cause of death for herself and the whole human race, so Mary... being obedient, became a cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race... . for in no other way can that which is tied be untied unless the very windings of the knot are gone through in reverse: so that the first joints are loosed through the second, and the second in turn free the first... . Thus, then, the knot of the disobedience of Eve was untied through the obedience of Mary." V, 19. 1: "Although the one had disobeyed God, the other was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve. And just as the human race was bound over to death through a virgin, so was it saved through a virgin; the scale was balanced—a virgin's disobedience by a virgin's obedience."
Comment: We notice the words about balancing the scales—of the objective order. We note too that Vatican II, LG 56 cited most of the first of the above texts, and put stress on obedience in 56 and 61. Also, the knot was not really untied until Calvary was completed—so the words of St. Irenaeus objectively imply more than he is likely to have seen (he was speaking of the annunciation, it seems from context). As a Father of the Church, Divine Providence could so use him.
c) Tertullian (c 150-c 240). On the Flesh of Christ 17: "Therefore, since we are told that the first Adam was from the earth, God fittingly also made the next, the new Adam, into a life-giving spirit out of the earth—that is, of a flesh not yet used for generation. And yet, so I may not miss the opening provided by the name of Adam—why did the Apostle call Him Adam if Christ as man was not of earthly origin? But here reason also helps to show that God, by a rival method, restored His image and likeness which had been captured by the devil. For into Eve when she was yet a virgin had crept the word that established death; likewise, into a virgin was to be brought the Word of God that produced life: so that what had gone to ruin by the one sex might be restored to salvation by the same sex. Eve had believed the serpent, Mary believed Gabriel. What wrong the one did by her unbelief, the other destroyed by her belief."
d) St. Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386) Catecheses 12. 15: "Through the virgin Eve came death. It was necessary that life appear through a virgin, or rather, of a virgin, so that just as the serpent deceived the one, so Gabriel brought the good tidings to the other."
e) St. Jerome ( c. 347-419), Epistle 22. 21 [internal quote: Is 9. 6): "But after the Virgin conceived in her womb and brought forth for us a child for whom 'the government is upon his shoulder... God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, ' the curse was dissolved. Death through Eve; life through Mary".
f) St. Ambrose (c 333 -397) Epistle 63. 33): "Through a man and a woman flesh was cast out of paradise; through a virgin it was joined to God." On the Gospel of Luke 4. 7: "From the virgin earth [came] Adam, Christ [came] from a virgin; the former was made to the image of God, the latter [was] the image of God; the former was exalted above all irrational animals, the latter above all living things. Through a woman [came] folly, through a virgin [came] wisdom. Death [came] through the tree, life through the cross."
g) St. Augustine ( 354-430):Sermon on Psalm 149. 2: "For He received flesh from us and offered it. But whence did He receive it? From the womb of the Virgin Mary, so that He might offer clean flesh for the unclean." On the Christian Combat 22. 24: "Here also is a great mystery: since death had come upon us through a woman, life was born for us through a woman, so that the conquered devil was tormented by both sexes, that is, male and female, since he had rejoiced in the ruin of both. His punishment would have been too small if both had been freed and had not been freed through both." On Holy Virginity 6. 6: "... but certainly she is the Mother of His members, which we are; for she cooperated in love that the faithful might be born in the Church." Sermon 289. 2: "Since our original fall took place when a woman conceived in her heart the poison of the serpent, it is not surprising that our salvation came when a woman conceived in her womb the flesh of the Almighty. Both sexes had fallen; both had to be restored. Through a woman we were sent to ruin; through a woman salvation was restored to us."
Comment: A more extensive collection of Patristic New Eve texts in English is found in: T. Livius, The Blessed Virgin in the Fathers of the First Six Centuries (London, 1893). Other Fathers quoted in Livius are: St. Theophilus of Antioch, Origen, St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Amphilocius, St. Ephrem, St. Epiphanius, St. Maximus, St. John Chrysostom, St. Peter Chrysologus, St. Proclus, St. Eleutherius Tornacensis, and the Epistle to Diognetus. Still more texts in Latin are to be found in Gabriel M. Roschini, Mariologia (2nd ed. Rome, 1947. II, 300-01, 304-09.
5) Ordinary Magisterium on Mary's Immediate Cooperation in the Objective Redemption
Preliminary Note: 1: We need to distinguish carefully between two things: (a) The fact that she cooperated immediately on Calvary, (b) The manner in which that cooperation worked.
2: Any doctrine proposed repeatedly by the Ordinary Magisterium is rated as infallible. In fact, Pius XII added in (Humani generis, Dec. 28, 1950. DS 3885): "Nor should one think that the things proposed in Encyclical Letters do not of themselves call for assent on the plea that in them the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Magisterium. For these things are taught by the Ordinary Magisterium, to which this also applies: 'He who hears you hears me. '... But if the Popes in their acta deliberately pass judgment on a matter controverted up to then, it is clear to all that according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, the question can no longer be considered open to free discussion among theologians." But: If a doctrine comes under the promise of Christ "He who hears you hears me" that doctrine cannot be in error. The reason is that in the case described by Pius XII, the Pope who can speak for the whole Church, shows clearly the intention to make a teaching definitive: so it comes under the promise of Christ which cannot fail.
1. Leo XIII, Encyclical, Iucunda Semper, Sept 8, 1884. ASS 27. 178 "For when she presented herself to God as a handmaid for the role of Mother, or when she totally dedicated herself with her Son in the temple, from each of these facts she was already then a sharer in the laborious expiation for the human race. Hence we cannot doubt that she greatly grieved in soul in the most harsh anguishes and torments of her Son. Further, that divine sacrifice had to be completed with her present and looking on, for which she had generously nourished the victim from herself. Finally this is more tearfully observed in the same mysteries: There stood by the Cross of Jesus, Mary His Mother... of her own accord she offered her Son to the divine justice, dying with Him in her heart, transfixed with the sword of sorrow."
2. Leo XIII, Encyclical, Adiutricem populi, Sept. 5, 1895. ASS 28. 130-31: "For thereafter, by the divine plan, she so began to watch over the Church, so to be present to us and to favor us as Mother, that she who had been the minister of accomplishing the mystery of human redemption, would be likewise the minister of the dispensation of that grace, practically limitless power being given to her."
3. St. Pius X, Encyclical, Ad diem illum, Feb. 2, 1904, ASS 36. 453-55: "Hence that never disassociated manner of life and labors of the Son and the Mother... . But when the final hour of her Son came, His Mother stood by the cross of Jesus, not just occupied in seeing the dread spectacle, but actually rejoicing that her Only-Begotten was being offered for the salvation of the human race... . from this common sharing of sufferings and will, she merited to become most worthily the reparatrix of the lost world, and so the dispensatrix of all the gifts which were gained for us by the death and blood of Jesus... . . She... since she was ahead of all in holiness and union with Christ, and was taken up by Christ into the work of human salvation, she merits congruously, as they say, what Christ merited condignly, and is the chief minister of the dispensation of graces."
4. Benedict XV, Epistle, Inter Sodalicia, May 22, 1918. AAS 10. 182 : "With her suffering and dying Son she suffered and almost died, so did she surrender her mother's rights over her Son for the salvation of human beings, and to appease the justice of God, so far as pertained to her, she immolated her Son, so that it can be rightly said, that together with Christ she has redeemed the human race".
5. Pius XI, Apostolic Letter, Explorata res est. Feb. 2, 1923. AAS 15. 104: "... the sorrowful Virgin shared in the work of redemption with Jesus Christ... . Comment: The word "sorrowful" shows this was a cooperation on Calvary, not just in the annunciation.
6. Pius XI, Encyclical, Miserentissimus Redemptor, May 8, 1928. AAS 20. 178: "May the kindly Virgin Mother of God be present and smile on these our prayers and undertakings, who, since she brought forth Jesus the Redeemer, fed Him, offered Him as a victim at the cross, by her hidden union with Christ, and an altogether singular grace from Him, was likewise the Reparatrix, and is devoutly called that."
7. Pius XI, Radio message to Lourdes, April 28, 1935. L'Osservatore Romano, April 29, 1935: "O Mother of piety and mercy, who as Coredemptrix stood by your most sweet Son suffering with Him when He consummated the redemption of the human race on the altar of the cross... preserve in us, we beg, day by day, the precious fruits of the Redemption and of your compassion."
8. Pius XII, Encyclical On the Mystical Body, June 29, 1943. AAS 35. 247: "She it was who, as the New Eve, free from every stain of original or personal sin, always most closely joined with her Son, offered Him to the Eternal Father on Golgotha together with the holocaust of her motherly rights and love for all the sons of Adam, defiled by his miserable fall."
9. Pius XII, Radio message to Fatima, May 13, 1946, AAS 38. 266: "Jesus is King of the Eternal Ages by nature and by right of conquest; through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him, Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular choice [of the Father]".
Comment: The same title "by right of conquest", is given for both Jesus and Mary. A triple subordination is carefully expressed even though it would be obvious in itself, therefore there should be no other reservation thought to be understood. Hence, with subordination, the title applies in the same way to each.
10. Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, Nov. 1, 1950. AAS 42. 768: " We must especially remember this, that starting in the second century, the Virgin Mary is presented by the holy Fathers as the New Eve, who, although subject to the New Adam, was most closely joined with Him in that struggle against the infernal enemy, which, as was foretold in the Protoevangelium [Gen 3:15], was to come to the most full victory over sin and death, which are always joined together in the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles. Hence, just as the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part and final sign of this victory, so that struggle which was common to the Blessed Virgin with her Son, had to be closed by the glorification of her virginal body."
Comment: In spite of the fears of some scholars, such as Altaner, that the Assumption was not in the sources of revelation, the Pope found the Assumption there in the New Eve theme, and more precisely, in her cooperation on Calvary, which was most close, to such an extent that the Pope even could speak of a struggle that was "common to the Blessed Virgin and her Son".
11. Pius XII, Encyclical, Fulgens corona, Sept. 8, 1953. AAS 45. 583: "... she was joined with her Only-begotten Son in the struggle against the most wicked infernal serpent."
12. Pius XII, Encyclical, Ad Caeli Reginam, Oct. 11, 1954. AAS 46. 634-35: "In accomplishing this work of the redemption, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was certainly closely joined with Christ... was associated with Jesus Christ, the very principle of salvation, by divine plan, and indeed in a way similar to that in which Eve was associated with Adam, the principle of death, so that we can say that the work of our salvation was accomplished according to a certain recapitulation... and if she was joined with her Son, even on Golgotha, [and] she offered Him, together with the holocaust of her Mother's rights and love, like a New Eve, for all the sons of Adam, defiled by his wretched fall, as a result, beyond doubt, it is right to conclude that just as Christ, the New Adam should be called King not only because He is the Son of God, but also because He is our Redeemer, so by a certain analogy, the most Blessed Virgin is Queen, not only because she is the Mother of God, but also because as the New Eve she was associated with the New Adam"
Comment: Mary acted in a way parallel to that of Eve, who did not receive a sin from Adam [as the German Mariology would imply] but in an effective and active way generated sin. Therefore Mary's work was not active receptivity, as the Germans assert, but an effective and active cooperation in generating the title for the Redemption.
13. John XXIII, Radio message to the Eucharistic Congress of Italy at Catana, Sept. 13, 1959. AAS 51. 714: "We trust that they will imitate in her the most perfect model of union with Jesus, our Head; we trust that they will join Mary in the offering of the divine Victim... ."
14. John XXIII, Homily for the Canonization of St. Peter Julian Eymard. Dec. 9, 1962. AAS 65. 10: "Intimately associated in the Redemption in the eternal plans of the Most High, Our Lady, as Severianus of Gabala sung, is the mother of salvation, the fountain of light made visible".
15. Vatican II, Constitution on the Church, §58: "So also the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully bore with her union with her Son even to the cross, where, in accord with the divine plan, she stood, vehemently grieved with her Only-Begotten, and joined herself to His Sacrifice with a motherly heart, lovingly consenting to the immolation of the victim born of her."
§61: "In conceiving Christ, in giving birth to Him, in feeding Him, in presenting Him to the Father 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."
Comment: Her cooperation was by way of obedience, which was the covenant condition, the very thing that gave the sacrifice its value, for without obedience, it would have been only a tragedy, not a redemption. Hence in §3 of the same constitution: "By His obedience, He brought about redemption. :" Cf. also Romans 5. 19. She cooperated officially "in accord with the divine plan" as the New Eve. She was made interiorly apt for this by the Immaculate Conception. Such a cooperation is clearly active, in generating the title for redemption.
16. John Paul II. Encyclical, Redemptoris Mater, March 25, 1987. AAS 79. 382. 83. Vatican Press Translation. "How great, how heroic then is the obedience of faith shown by Mary in the face of God's 'unsearchable judgments'! How completely she 'abandons herself to God without reserve, ' offering the full assent of the intellect and the will' to Him whose 'ways are inscrutable... . Through this faith, Mary is perfectly united with Christ in his self-emptying... . At the foot of the Cross Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self-emptying. This is perhaps the deepest 'kenosis' of faith in human history. Through faith the Mother shares in the death of her Son, in His redeeming death... . as a sharing in the sacrifice of Christ—the new Adam—it becomes in a certain sense the counterpoise to the disobedience and disbelief embodied in the sin of our first parents. Thus teach the Fathers of the Church and especially St. Irenaeus, quoted by the Constitution Lumen gentium: 'The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience; what the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed by her faith. '"
Comment: In his Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custos, the same Pope said that in Redemptoris Mater, he intended to deepen the teaching of Vatican II on Mary's faith. Now since faith involves total adherence of a person to God, requiring intellectual assent, confidence in promises, and the "obedience of faith" [Rom 1. 5], and since all spiritual perfection lies in the alignment of one's will with the will of God, it is clear that on Calvary her conformity to the will of the Father required that she positively will the terrible death of her Son. To do that was indeed the deepest kenosis of faith in all history, for she had to will His death in spite of her love, which was so great that Pius IX, in Ineffabilis Deus, in 1854, taught that at the very start of her life, her holiness (= love of God) was so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and only God can comprehend it."—The very value of His death depended on His obedience to the will of the Father (cfr. Lumen gentium §3 and Rom 5. 19) for that obedience was the condition of the New Covenant, the essential interior disposition of the great sacrifice. But then, her cooperation consisted in the obedience of faith, and so was a share in the covenant condition, in His obedience; hence her obedience became "the counterpoise to the disobedience and disbelief embodied in the sin of our first parents." -She did this as the one appointed by the Father to cooperate, as the New Eve, who was there, as Lumen gentium ## 58 &61 said, "by plan of divine Providence."
17. John Paul II, Allocution at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guayaquil, given on Jan 31, 1985, reported in L'Osservatore Romano Supplement of Feb. 2, 1985 and in English L'Osservatore Romano, March 11, 1985, p. 7: "Crucified spiritually with her crucified Son (cf. Gal 2:20), she contemplated with heroic love the death of her God, she 'lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth' (Lumen gentium #58)... as she was in a special way close to the Cross of her Son, she also had to have a privileged experience of his Resurrection. In fact, Mary's role as coredemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son."
Comment: Same sense as the previous text. We note the Pope even uses the word Coredemptrix.
6) Conclusions from Texts:
a) The Patristic texts do not go beyond remote cooperation, explicitly. But St. Irenaeus implies more in his knot comparison. A Father of the Church may be used by Providence to say more than he realizes, even as the writers of Scripture sometimes are. And we shall see that it is very likely that happened to Vatican II as well.
b) The Popes and Vatican II give us clearly the following data:
(1) She was appointed officially to cooperate , for her role was "in accordance with the divine plan." Further the position of the New Eve is official, with the New Adam.
(2) She was made intrinsically apt to cooperate by the Immaculate Conception.
(3)Her role was entirely singular, i. e, unlike that of St. John, who was present.
(4)Her cooperation was done by way of obedience, faith, hope and burning love.
(5)We notice specially that obedience was (a) the covenant condition, and (b) was that which gave the value to His sacrifice, which otherwise would have been only a tragedy. (c) It also was a means of joining in payment of the debt, i.e. , of rebalancing the objective order.
(6) Her obedience consisted in precisely "the obedience of faith", in willing what the Father willed—which is the essential of all and any sanctity. So the Popes and Council say she "consented" and "immolated Him". John Paul II says this is part of the deepest kenosis, self-emptying in all history. This was more than just agreeing to let it go: For she had to positively will this, going counter to her love for Him, which was so great, as we learn from Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it".
7. Theological reasoning on the data tells us this: Her Son generated a claim to all forgiveness and grace in three ways: First, by obeying and so fulfilling the covenant condition. She as the Council and Popes make clear shared in that covenant condition by her obedience, of which LG spoke three times. So she shared in the "price" of redemption (cf. 1 Cor 6. 20 and 7. 23). Second her obedience joined in His obedience, which was the interior disposition that gave all the value to His sacrifice. Third her obedient suffering, together with His, was the payment of the debt, the rebalancing of the objective order.
It was surely possible for the Father to accept her obedience as part of the covenant condition, and as the interior disposition of His sacrifice, and as suffering to pay the debt or rebalance the objective order: He called for it at immense cost to her, as we have seen. He made her intrinsically apt. He appointed her to cooperate. Could we then suppose He would not accept that which He Himself had arranged? Not at all. So, factually, He did accept her obedience in all three aspects, which generated a claim to all forgiveness and grace. This is far beyond what the German Mariologists supposed, with their theory of mere active receptivity, which sounds so much like the position of Luther saying our role is mere appropriation.
This does not mean she was on the same level as Jesus. Her very ability to do anything came from Him. Further, even His offering was on the secondary level of the covenant, in the sense explained in our study of Sinai. That is, the Father did not cease being angry because Jesus came and died: rather, it was because the Father always loved us that He came. On the most basic level no one can generate a claim to move the Father. He did not have to be moved. He cannot be moved, or changed. Yet, within the covenant framework, which He established, He does repay (cf. Romans 2. 6).
8. Answer to an objection: Vatican II, in LG §54 said it did not intend to settle debates among theologians, chiefly, between the German Mariologists and those who hold she actively contributed to generating a title to all forgiveness and grace. Yet, In LG §55 the Council made clear that even if the human writers of Gen 3. 15 and Is 7. 14 may not have seen the full import of their words, the Church now does see them, in the light of the Holy Spirit. Jeremiah the prophet in 31. 31 ff. wrote more than he probably knew. St. Irenaeus wrote more than he understood, with his knot comparison. Why could not the Council, an instrument of Divine Providence, also write more than it realized? We have seen, by careful analysis, that its words do objectively mean more than it realized.
Still further, Msgr. G. Philips of Louvain, one of the chief drafters of LG, shows in his commentary that he himself did not fully understand all that he wrote. In his commentary on §§ 61 and 62 of LG (L'Eglise et son mystere aux Deuxieme concil du Vatican. Histoire, text et commentaire de la Constitution Lumen Gentium, Desclee, Paris, 1968, reprinted in Ephemerides Mariologicae XXIV, 1974, pp. 87-97. We cite from this reprint) he thinks that only (p. 92) "a mental distinction... between the acquisition and the distribution of grace is possible." That is, between objective and subjective redemption. But on p. 90 of his commentary, he says that her cooperation was "concretized in her unconditional obedience." While on p. 92 he said her present role (subjective redemption) is one of intercession. Intercession and obedience are not at all the same thing. In obedience, she does the will of the Father, in intercession she asks the Father to do her will, to grant graces to her children.
9. The alternatives of redemption: If we imagine the Father looking over the scene after the sin of our first parents, of course He willed to restore our race. But there were several alternatives open to Him: (1) He could forgive with no reparation at all. This would not satisfy His generosity to us, nor would it at all rebalance the objective order, as His Holiness wanted. (2) He could have appointed any mere human and ordered that one to perform any religious act. That would be of finite value, but He could have accepted, even could have bound Himself by promise to accept it as the whole of redemption. (3) He could have sent His Son to be born in a palace, fitted with every possible luxury. The Son would not need to die at all. The mere fact of becoming Incarnate was a come-down for a Divine Person, and so would be infinitely satisfactory and meritorious. He could have added a short prayer, perhaps, "Father, forgive them" and then could have ascended in a blaze of glory without ever dying. This would have been an infinite redemption [cf. the physical-mystical theory of the Easter Fathers described above]. (4)He went beyond the palace to the stable, beyond a deathless prayer to the Cross. Without any rhetoric we can say: this is beyond infinity. In the lowly terrain of mathematics, infinity plus a finite quantity does not increase. But this is the realm of divine generosity, which wills to make everything as rich as possible. (5) Further, recalling He could have used a mere human for the whole of redemption: why not use the Virgin Mary as the associate of the Divine Redeemer?—Our magisterium texts and analysis have shown He did precisely that. We recall again St. Thomas I. 19. 5. c.
10. Parallel to the Mass: The Mass, says Vatican II (On Liturgy §10) is the renewal of the New Covenant. But in that renewal we, the members of Christ, are called on to join our obedience to His, to form the one great offering of the obedience of the whole Christ, Head and members. Therefore, if the renewal is faithful to the original, there must have been in the original a parallel, i. e, the infinite value of the obedience of Christ, to which was joined the obedience of His Mother.
11. She is also our spiritual Mother: For Vatican II, in LG §61, right after the portion already quoted, added: "As a result she is our Mother in the order of grace." An ordinary Mother must do two things: (1) Share in bringing a new life into being—Our Spiritual Mother did share in that, in immense pain, by the Cross. (2) She must take care of that life so long as she is needed, willing, and able. In time children naturally outgrow the need of great help from their earthly mother. Not so Mary: we will need her help, since all graces come through her, until we finally reach the mansions of the Father. Ordinary mothers may be unwilling or unable to help. Not so Mary, who is never unwilling, always most able. (We shall see in a moment the magisterium texts on that point). Pope Benedict XV (Epistle Decessorem nostrum, of 19 April, 1915, called her "suppliant omnipotence." That is: all that God can do by His own inherent power, she can obtain by her intercession.
Pope Pius XII in a message to the Marian Congress of Ottawa, Canada, on July 19, 1947, said: "When the little maid of Nazareth uttered her fiat to the message of the angel... she became not only the Mother of God in the physical order of nature, but also in the supernatural order of grace she became the Mother of all, who... would be made one under the Headship her divine Son. The Mother of the Head would be the Mother of the members. The Mother of the Vine would be the Mother of the branches." (English text from AAS 39. 271. Cf. also Marian Studies III, 1952, pp. 14-217. )
12. Scriptural Basis for the teaching on Immediate Cooperation: The claim is often made that the Catholic doctrine on Our Lady is largely unscriptural. The culmination of this charge is of course the teaching on her immediate cooperation in the objective redemption.
Yet, it is easy to show that even this most advanced doctrine is Scriptural:
First, we want to notice that in the very earliest Fathers of the Church, such as St. Justin Martyr (c. 145-150), we find the New Eve doctrine, i.e. , that just as the first Eve really contributed to the damage of original sin, so Mary, the New Eve, really contributed to removing it. They had in mind her obedient acceptance, in faith, to be the Mother of the Messiah.
But today as we saw above, the Church has gone beyond that early teaching. Let us recall the Constitution on the Church of Vatican II, §61: "... 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, faith, hope and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls." Basically this same doctrine is found in every Pope from Leo XIII up to and including John Paul II. By the time of Vatican II, nearly all the die-hard Catholic theologians who disliked this teaching had admitted they had to concede.
So Vatican II was merely restating a repeated teaching. But the way it expressed it is very helpful. It said her role on Calvary was one of obedience. Earlier, in §56 it had pointed out that obedience twice, in citing St. Irenaeus: "By obeying, she became a cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race." Then, after recalling the comparison St. Irenaeus made of all sin to a complex knot, in which the Saint said that to untie a knot, one must take the end of the rope backwards through every turn taken in tying it. And it added, from St. Irenaeus again: "Thus then, the knot of the disobedience of Eve was untied through the obedience of Mary."
At first sight this teaching seems to have no basis in Scripture. But if we look more closely, we will see something quite obvious. First, at the Annunciation, she was asked to consent, in faith, to be the Mother of the Messiah. She knew this perfectly clearly, for as soon as the Archangel said, "He will reign over the house of Jacob forever," she knew that only the Messiah could reign forever. So she knew it was the Messiah. Then there would begin to crowd into her thoughts all the ancient prophecies of the Messiah, especially Isaiah 53, of His dreadful sufferings and death. She was asked to consent to be the Mother of such a Messiah.
She did consent, as St. Luke tells us, saying: "Be it done to me according to your word." She gave her fiat, her obedience to the will of God, as the angel told her of His will.
Did she later retract this acceptance of God's will? Of course not. Any soul either falls back or goes ahead in holiness. Holiness really consists in the alignment of our wills with the will of God—for the free will is the only thing free we have.
So she faithfully stood by Him, keeping in the background when the crowds gave Him praise, but moving out into the dark blackness that hung over Calvary. There she stood.
What was her reaction? Of course, she grieved, as any Mother would, seeing her Son suffering so horribly. And she saw that suffering as our crucifixes do not generally let us see it—they contain no trace at all of the horrid scourging, leaving Him bloody all over.
But now we can begin to realize something tremendous. As we said, spiritual perfection consists in the alignment of our will with the will of the Father. Further, when we know what He positively wills, it is not enough for us to say, as it were: "Let it go". No, we are called on to positively will what He wills.
But what did He will in that dread hour? She knew from Isaiah 53:10: "It was the will of the Lord to crush Him with pain." So the Father willed that His Son should die, die then, die so horribly. So did the Son will it. So she was then called upon to will what the Father willed, what her Son willed, in other words, she was called on to will positively that He die, die then, die horribly.
We must add: the redemption was, under one aspect, the making of the New Covenant, foretold by Jeremiah 31:31 ff.: "I will make a New covenant. It will not be like the covenant I made with your Fathers, for they broke my covenant, and I had to show myself their master. But this is the Covenant. I will write my law on their heart. I will be their God, and they will be my people."
In the Covenant of Sinai, the essential condition had been the obedience of the people (Ex 19:5): "If you really hearken to my voice, and keep my covenant, you will be my special people." So the New Covenant would have again as its essential condition obedience, which Jeremiah expressed by speaking of a law written on hearts. Perhaps Jeremiah did not see it fully, but that obedience was to be the obedience of Christ.
What did that law of the Father, written on her heart call for? It called for what we have just said: That she positively will that her Son die, die then, die horribly. In that, she was joining in the fulfillment of the Covenant condition. He, in Gethsemani, had said: "If it be possible, let this chalice pass... but nonetheless, not what I will, but what you will." In other words, He obeyed. St. Paul stressed that too in Rom 5:19: "Just as by the disobedience of the one man [the first Adam] the many were made sinners [original sin] so by the obedience of the one man [the New Adam] the many will be constituted just."
In fact, had His death taken place without obedience, it would not have been a redemption, it would have been merely a tragedy. So it was obedience that was the covenant condition, it was that which gave the value to His death.
To look at the same reality from a different perspective, His death was a sacrifice. God had once complained through Isaiah 29:13: "This people honors me with their lips... their hearts are far from me." The ancient Jews were very adept at what is sometimes, simplistically, called "participation." They loved to make the responses, to sing, to join in processions. But it was all empty, for their hearts were far from Him: their hearts did not act in obedience.
But Jesus did offer His sacrifice in obedience. So just as obedience is the covenant condition, so too, it is that without which His sacrifice would be as worthless as those of which God complained through Isaiah.
But we return to Our Lady. At the annunciation, she obeyed, she said her fiat. She knew too much for comfort even then, of what that entailed, as we explained above. But now in the blackness of Calvary, she was called on to continue to obey the will of the Father. That she did. As we said, we know this since any soul is required to conform its will to that of the Father. But then, she knew that will of the Father, knew it all too well. It was that He should die then, die horribly.
So what she had to do, unless she would break with the Father, was to will what He willed, to will the terrible death of her Son.
All this is, of course, entirely Scriptural. It merely points out that at the start, she obeyed in saying her fiat, as St. Luke tells us. At the Cross, as any soul that loves the will of the Father must do, she had to continue her fiat, to continue to obey. Isaiah 53 had said that, "by His stripes we are healed", that, "it was the will of the Lord to crush Him in pain." Even the Targum knew Isaiah spoke of the Messiah, although in the stiff-necks of many, the message was even inverted. But she was not such, she understood, and yet she did not take back her fiat, she obeyed the will of the Lord. That obedience of hers was a joining in the essential condition of the New Covenant, it was a joining in the necessary interior of His sacrifice.
Her love of Him would multiply the difficulty. It was the love of the best of Mothers for the best of Sons, a Son whom she understood as no other person could. We cannot really calculate the terrible difficulty of her obedience, going counter to such love.
Would the Father accept her obedience as part of the covenant obedience? In the old covenant, He accepted the obedience of even very ordinary, sinful people—how much more hers! Would He put her in such straits, call on her to obey when it was so incredibly hard, and then not accept her obedience as part of the covenant condition even as He had accepted the obedience of very ordinary, sinful people, as we said, in the old covenant.
He could have redeemed us with something immeasurably less painful—the mere fact of the incarnation, even without so much as a short prayer added, would have been superabundant. Yet in His love of all goodness, in His love of us, He would not stop short when there was any way to make it all richer. It was in that attitude that He called for the death of His Son, that He called for her immeasurably difficult obedience.
So, Vatican II in its teaching, merely unfolded, by pondering in hearts, what the Scripture contains: "In suffering with Him as He died on the cross, she cooperated in the work of the Savior"—in the essential requirement of the New Covenant, in the essential interior of the Great Sacrifice—"by obedience, faith, hope and burning love."
12. Her Role in Each Mass: Since Vatican II said (On Liturgy #10) that the Mass is the renewal of the new covenant, and since the Council of Trent (DS 1743) said the Mass is the same as Calvary ,"only the manner or offering being changed", therefore we would expect her to have a role in the Mass parallel to that which she had on Calvary.
Pope John XXIII in a radio message to the 16th Eucharistic Congress of Italy on Sept. 13, 1959, (AAS 51. 713) said he hoped all would grow in their fervor and veneration for the Blessed Virgin, "the Mother of the Mystical Body, of which the Eucharist is the symbol and vital center." And he added: "We trust that they will imitate in her the most perfect model of union with Jesus our Head; we trust that they will join Mary in the offering of the Divine Victim."
Pope John Paul II in an address in St. Peter's square (Sunday Feb. 12, 1984 (from English edition of L’Osservatore Romano, Feb. 20, 1984, p. 10) said: "Today I wish to dwell with you on the Blessed Virgin's presence in the celebration of the Liturgy... . Every liturgical action... is an occasion of communion... and in a particular way with Mary... Because the Liturgy is the action of Christ and of the Church... she is inseparable from one and the other... . Mary is present in the memorial—the liturgical action—because she was present at the saving event... . She is at every altar where the memorial of the passion and Resurrection is celebrated, because she was present, faithful with her whole being to the Father's plan, at the historic salvific occasion of Christ's death."
A sacrifice consists of the external sign and the interior dispositions which the sign expresses. In the Cenacle the external sign was the seeming separation of His body and blood. On the Cross, it was the physical separation. But in both cases, and on our altars the interior is the disposition of His Heart, most basically, obedience to the Father (cf. Rom 5. 19 and LG §3). His disposition on our altars is not a repeat of that which He had on Calvary, it is the continuation, for death makes permanent the attitude of soul with which one leaves the body. She shares in the external sign of the Mass in that the flesh and blood are still those He received from her. She shares in the interior dispositions of His Heart, with which she is eternally united. Therefore the Mass is not the time to stop thinking of her. Rather, the more closely one is united with her, the more closely one is united with Her Son. Therefore, let no one say we should forget her at Mass. Rather, the more closely one is joined to her there, the more closely to Jesus—and vice versa. (This is true objectively, even if one's diversity of grace does not lead him to realize it).
The term Mediatrix in itself could refer to either objective or subjective redemption or both. It is most usual to use it to refer only to subjective redemption, i.e. , the process of giving out the fruits of the objective redemption, throughout all centuries.
We must consider whether or not the term applies to all graces or only to some. We will ask also about the nature of the mediation: is it only by way of intercession, or even by way of being a physical instrument of all graces. There is no doubt the title would be justified, and would apply to all graces for certain, by her cooperation in acquiring all graces on Calvary.
1) Leo XIII, Encyclical, Supremi Apostolatus officio. Sept 1, 1883. ASS 16, 1883. 1113: "We judge nothing more powerful and better for this purpose than by religion and devotion to deserve well of the great Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, who is the treasurer (sequestra) of our peace with God, and the mediatrix (administra) of graces... ."
2)Leo XIII, Encyclical, Superiore anno, August 30, 1884. ASS 17, 1884. 49: "... may He hear the prayers of those who beseech through her, whom He Himself willed to be the mediatrix (administram) of graces."
3) Leo XIII, Encyclical, Octobri mense adventante, Sept 22, 1891, ASS 24, 1891, 196: "... it is right to say, that nothing at all of that very great treasury of all grace which the Lord brought us—for 'grace and truth came through Jesus Christ' [Jn 1. 17]—nothing is imparted to us except through Mary, since God so wills, so that just as no one can come to the Father except through the Son, so in general, no one can come to Christ except through His Mother."
4) Leo XIII, Encyclical, Iucunda semper, Sept 8, 1984. ASS 27, 1894. 179: "... when He [the Father] has been invoked with excellent prayers, our humble voice turns to Mary; in accordance with no other law than that law of conciliation and petition which was expressed as follows by St. Bernardine of Siena : 'Every grace that is communicated to this world has a threefold course. For by excellent order, it is dispensed from God to Christ, from Christ to the Virgin, from the Virgin to us.'" (Internal quote from S. Bernardine, Sermon on Nativity of B. V. M. n. 6).
5) Leo XIII, Encyclical, Adiutricem populi, Sept 5, 1895, ASS 28, 1895, 130: "For thereupon, by divine plan, she so began to watch over the Church, so to be near and to favor us as a Mother, that she who had been the minister (administra) of the mystery of human redemption, was equally the minister (administra) of the grace to be given from it for all time, practically immeasurable power being given to her."
6) Leo XIII, Encyclical, Diuturni temporis spatium, Sept 5, 1898, ASS 31, 1898, 146: "For from her, as in a must abundant conduit, the drafts of heavenly graces are given: '... in her hands are the treasures of the mercies of the Lord; for God wills that she be the principle of all good things. '"(internal quotes are from St. John Damascene. Series I De Nativitate Virginis and St. Irenaeus, Against Valentinus III. 33).
7) Leo XIII, Encyclical, Diuturni temporis spatium, Sept 5, 1898, ASS 31, 1898, 147: "'God wills her to be the principle of all good things'" (citing St. John Damascene, Series I De nativitate Virginis. )
8) Leo XIII, Parta humano generi, Apostolic Letter, Sept 8, 1901, ASS 34, 1901, 195: "So may the most powerful Virgin Mother, who once 'cooperated in love that the faithful might be born in the Church', be even now the means and mediatrix of our salvation."(Citing St. Augustine, De sancta Virginitate 6).
9) St. Pius X, Encyclical, Ad diem illum, Feb. 2, 1904, AAS 36, 1904. 453-54: "Hence that never dissociated manner of life and labors of the Mother and the Son... . there stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother, not merely occupied in looking at the dreadful sight, but even rejoicing that 'her only Son was being offered for the salvation of the human race; and so did she suffer, with Him, that if it had been possible, she would have much more gladly suffered herself all the torments that her Son underwent' [St. Bonaventure I. Sent. d, 48, ad Litt. dub. 4. ]. Now from this common sharing of will and suffering between Christ and Mary, she 'merited to become most worthily the Reparatrix of the lost world' [Eadmer, De Excellentia Virginis Mariae, 9] and therefore Dispensatrix of all the gifts which Jesus gained for us by His Death and by His Blood... . But Mary as St. Bernard fittingly remarks [De Aquaeductu 4. ] is the 'channel' or, even, the neck, through which the body is joined to the head, and likewise through which the head exerts its power and strength on the body. ' For she is the neck of our Head, by which all spiritual gifts are communicated to His Mystical Body"' [St. Bernardine of Siena, Quadrag. De Evangelio aeterno, Sermo X, a. 3. c. 3. ]
10) St. Pius X, Litterae Apostolicae, August 27, 1910, AAS 2, 1910, 901: "We, to whom nothing is dearer than that the devotion of the faithful towards the Virgin of Lourdes, the treasurer [sequestra] of all graces, be more and more increased, think we should gladly assent to these wishes."
11) Benedict XV, Litterae Apostolicae, Inter Sodalicia, March 22, 1918, AAS 10, 1918, 182: "... the fact that she was with Him crucified and dying, was in accord with the divine plan. For with her suffering and dying Son, Mary endured suffering and almost death. She gave up her Mother's rights over her Son to procure the salvation of mankind, and to appease the divine justice, she, as much as she could, immolated her Son, so that one can truly affirm that together with Christ she has redeemed the human race. But if for this reason, every kind of grace we receive from the treasury of the redemption is ministered as it were through the hands of the same Sorrowful Virgin, everyone can see that a holy death should be expected from her, since it is precisely by this gift that the work of the Redemption is effectively and permanently completed in each one... . further, there is a most constant belief among the faithful, proved by long experience, that as many as employ the same Virgin as Patron, will not at all perish forever."
12) Benedict XV, Encyclical, Fausto appetente die, June 29, 1921, AAS 13, 1921, 334: "For he [St. Dominic] knew well that Mary... has such influence with her divine Son, that He confers whatever of graces He confers on humans, does so always with her as minister and decision-maker [administra et arbitra]."
13) Pius XI, Apostolic Letter, Galliam, Ecclesiae filiam, March 2, 1922, AAS 14, 1922 186: "She, the Virgin Mother, [is] the treasurer [sequestra] of all graces with God."
14) Pius XI, Apostolic Letter, Exstat in civitate, Feb. 1, 1924, AAS 16 1924, 152: "It is clear that many Roman Pontiffs... have stirred up devotion among the nations to the most clement Mother, the Virgin Mary, the Consoler of the afflicted, and the treasurer [sequestra] of all graces with God."
15) Pius XI, Apostolic Letter, Cognitum sane, Jan 14, 1926, AAS 18, 1926, 213: "We, to whom nothing is dearer than that the devotion of the Christian people be aroused more and more towards the Virgin who is the treasurer [sequestra] of all graces with God, think we should grant these wishes."
16) Pius XI, Encyclical, Ingravescentibus malis, Sept 29, 1937, AAS 29, 1927, 380: "... we know also that all things are imparted to us from God the Greatest and Best, through the hands of the Mother of God."
17) Pius XII, Encyclical, Mystici Corporis, June 29, 1943, AAS 35, 1943, 248: "May she, then, the most holy Mother of all the members of Christ, to whose Immaculate Heart we have confidently consecrated all people... ask earnestly that most abundant streams of graces from the lofty Head may flow down on all the members of the Mystical body without interruption."
18) Pius XII, Radio message to Fatima, Bendito seja, May 13, 1946, AAS 38, 19465, 266: "... having been associated, as Mother and Minister, with the King of martyrs in the ineffable work of human Redemption, she is always associated, with a practically measureless power, in the distribution of the graces that derive from the Redemption... . And her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son and God, since nothing is excluded from her dominion."
19) John XXIII, Epistle to Cardinal Agaganian, Legate to Marian Congress in Saigon, Jan 31, 1959, AAS 51, 1959, 88: "For the faithful can do nothing more fruitful and salutary than to win for themselves the most powerful patronage of the Immaculate Virgin, so that by this most sweet Mother, there may be opened to them, all the treasures of the divine Redemption, and so they may have life, and have it more abundantly. Did not the Lord will that we have everything through Mary?" Discorsi II, 66: "From her hands hope for all graces."
20) Vatican II, Lumen gentium §§61-62: "... 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, faith, hope, and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls. As a result she is our Mother in the order of grace. This motherhood of Mary in the economy of grace lasts without interruption, from the consent which she gave in faith at the annunciation, and which she unhesitatingly bore with under the cross, even to the perpetual consummation of all the elect. For after being assumed into heaven, she has not put aside this saving function, but by her manifold intercession, she continues to win the gifts of eternal salvation for us. By her motherly love, she takes care of the brothers of her Son who are still in pilgrimage and in dangers and difficulties, until they be led through to the happy fatherland. For this reason, the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adiutrix, and Mediatrix. This however it to be so understood that it takes nothing away, or adds nothing to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator. For no creature can ever be put on the same level with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer... ."
Comments: 1. We notice Vatican II did not add the words "of all graces." First, they were not needed, since, as several of the papal texts point out, her role in dispensation flows logically from her role in acquiring all graces. Second, the real reason for not adding it, and for putting the title Mediatrix in a list of other titles was the influence of Protestant observers, who had said in advance that if the Church calls her Mediatrix, dialogue on the topic would be ended. Cf. C Balic, "El Capitulo VIII de la Constitucion 'Lumen gentium' comparado con el Primer Esquema de La B. Virgen Madre de la Iglesia: in Estudios Marianos 27, 1966, p. 174.
Further, the Council itself added a note on the above passage, in which it refers us to the texts of Leo XIII, Adiutricem populi, St. Pius X, Ad diem illum, Pius XI, Miserentissimus Redemptor, and Pius XII, Radio message to Fatima. Leo XIII in that text spoke of her, as we saw above, as having "practically limitless power." St. Pius X said she was the "dispensatrix of all the gifts, and is the "neck" connecting the Head of the Mystical Body to the Members. But all power flows through the neck. Pius XII said "Her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son and God, since nothing is excluded from her dominion." Still further, no Council has the right to cancel previous papal teaching, especially when that teaching, on the ordinary Magisterium level, is repeated. For such repeated teaching is infallible.
2. The following papal texts cited above speak in varied ways of her as Mediatrix of all graces: Leo XIII, especially texts 3 and 4: "nothing at all of that great treasury of all grace... is imparted to us except through Mary... . . every grace has a threefold course... . St. Pius X: especially texts 9 and 10: "Dispensatrix of all the gifts." She is the "neck" of the Mystical Body. Benedict XV text 12: "Whatever of graces He confers... . always with her as minister and decision-maker" Pius XI, texts 13. 14. 15: "treasurer of all graces" Pius XII, text 18: "nothing is excluded from her dominion". John XXIII, text 19: "Did not the Lord will that we have everything through Mary?"
Again, since a doctrine repeatedly taught on the Ordinary Magisterium level is infallibly taught—so many repetitions of this doctrine mark it as infallible.
3. Protestants object, saying that there is only mediator: 1 Tim 2:5. But they fail to make distinctions. There is only one 1)who is such by very nature, having both divine and human natures; 2) whose work is necessary; 3) who depends on no one else for power. She differs on all three counts. Her whole ability to do anything comes entirely from her Son, and hence we are not contradicting LG §62 which says no creature can be ever counted together with Him. "As we said, we reply that her whole ability comes from Him. Really, the Father did not need her at all, except that if He decreed the incarnation, He necessarily decreed a Mother: she was and is that Mother. But everything else in which He has employed her is not needed. Yet: 1)if we recall the alternatives of redemption, it is clear that the Father wants everything to be as rich as possible, so that He will not stop with something lesser if there is more than can be done. Really, the incarnation in a palace, without death, would have been infinite in merit and satisfaction, as we saw above. 2)Further the principle of St. Thomas helps here. In I. 19, 5. c. Thomas says that it pleases God to have one thing in place to serve as a title or reason for granting something further, even though that title does not move Him. It is His love of all goodness and good order that leads Him to act this way. Hence too, even though Calvary earned infinite forgiveness and graces, the Father wills to provide titles for giving out these, in the Mass. Even though He did not need even our Lady, yet He willed to employ her. Even though there is no need of any other saints, in objective or subjective redemption, yet He wills to add them—all to make everything, every title, as rich as possible.
4. LG speaks of her as taking care of all her children. We are extremely numerous, but yet not infinite in number. Therefore, we are not too numerous for her to see and care for. For her capacity for that infinite vision of God is in proportion to her love on earth, so great that Pius IX, as we saw, said it was so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it."
5. What is the nature of her mediation? Surely, she works by way of intercession. But theologians have also asked: Is she also a physical instrument of grace? Many today, influenced by Protestantism, tend to speak of grace merely as favor, and so say grace is not a thing given. But that would imply Pelagianism, the heresy that says that we can be saved by our own power. For if God merely sits there and smiles at me, and gives me nothing, that would mean that I had to do it by my own power. So even if one uses the word favor, this must always be in mind. But St. Thomas Aquinas holds that the sacraments are physical instruments of grace (III. 62. 4). Then the priest giving absolution would be a physical instrument of grace. So all the more she would be such an instrument. If she is, then the course of grace is this: grace begins in the divine nature, passes through the Sacred Humanity of Christ (a physical instrument), then through Mary (also a physical instrument) and then, if a sacrament is being given, through it as a physical instrument also. This seems to be precisely the sense of the text of Leo XIII, Iucunda semper, cited above. It fits well with the words of St. Pius X in Ad diem illum and some other texts we have already cited.
Pius XII, Encyclical on Mystical Body, AAS 35, 248: "She it was who, by her most powerful prayers, obtained that the Spirit of the Divine Redeemer, already given on the Cross, should be given to the newborn Church on the day of Pentecost, along with abundant gifts."
John Paul II, General Audience of January 28, 1988: "Mary, who 'kept these things in her heart' (cf. Lk 2:19) could bear witness, after Christ's death and resurrection in regard to what concerned herself and her role as Mother, precisely in the apostolic period when the New Testament texts were being written and when the early Christian tradition had its origin."
Comment: Before the coming of the Holy Spirit, during the long nine days, it may well have been that the Apostles were inclined to lose heart—they had shown their weaknesses before, and yet at this point, had not yet received the strength of the Holy Spirit. So it is likely enough that she had to reassure and encourage them to persevere doing that novena.
What Gifts were given at Pentecost? To the Apostles were given the gift of tongues, a charismatic grace. The Apostles also received Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the sanctifying category, which gave them courage and understanding they had previously not had.
The gift of tongues given to the Apostles seems different from that claimed by modern charismatics. For the moderns—and also those of whom St. Paul speaks in 1 Cor 12-14—do not understand what they are saying, unless there is an added different gift of interpretation. But the Apostles clearly understood what they were saying on Pentecost. Even so, we must ask: Did the Spirit give the Apostles the power to speak various language themselves so that the Apostles understood their own words, or was there, as it were, translation in the air before their words reached the crowds? We do not know.
We inject a comment: modern charismatics are apt to claim that their special phenomena are simply actuations of the Gifts of the Spirit, which all Catholics have: therefore, all Catholics should be charismatics. But this is not true for two reasons: 1)The gift of tongues belongs to the charismatic type of graces—Gifts of the Holy Spirit belong to the sanctifying category. Something from one category cannot actuate something from the other. 2)The claim neglects the diversity of spiritual attractions: The basic principles of the spiritual life are the same for all. But on a secondary level, the approach, there is room for great differences. We think for example of St. Francis de Sales, a refined gentlemen, in contrast to St. Benedict Joseph Labre, who lived like a tramp, probably had body lice. Or we think of St. Francis of Assisi who, according to one account was reluctant to let a brother have even one book—in comparison to St. Thomas Aquinas who did nothing but soak in books. All four of these Saints followed the same basic rules—but their approaches were different. It is spiritually harmful to ignore this principle and to try to force all into one mould. The Spirit does not do that.
Therefore we also ask: Did Our Lady receive the gift of tongues? There is no mention in Acts of the Apostles. It was not needed for her role on Pentecost or otherwise. We saw above in considering the graces given her at Immaculate Conception, that we have no evidence she received the charismatic type of graces, which do not sanctify. Further, 1 Cor 14:34 says strongly: "Women must be silent in the Church." Our Lord did not make her a priest, nor does it seem she ever addressed the assembly, though of course she did give information especially on the early life of Jesus privately to the Evangelists and others, as John Paul II said in a document cited above.
What are the sanctifying Gifts of the Holy Spirit? They are added faculties, added to the structure of infused virtues, which enable the soul to receive the inspiration sent in His own special way by the Holy Spirit. They can give infused contemplation as well as guidance. But for the present we consider their role in guidance.
An soul may follow any of three spiritual guides: 1) the whim of the moment. Aristotle in Ethics 1. 5 calls this a life fit for cattle, who also do just as they happen to feel like doing. 2) reason, which even if the recipient is not aware of it, is aided by actual graces which God gives generously. 3) The Holy Spirit through the Gifts.
When a soul operates on the second level, its work is often discursive, i.e., from one step to another in reasoning. For example if I decide I have sinned and should do penance, first I ask: How much have I sinned?—How much is needed?—what penance will fit with the duties of my state in life?—with my health? And so after several steps the soul reaches a decision. But when guidance is receive via the Gifts, there is no such discursive process: as it were, the answer is dropped ready made into the mind. This of course leaves opening for much subjectivity and even deception. But there is help: 1)Well developed cases of such guidance do not appear until the soul is very far advanced in the spiritual life. 2)When they do appear they come in one of two forms: (a) if there is time to consult a superior or director, the guidance leaves one a bit uncertain, a signal the soul should consult. (b) in the less common case where a decision must be made on the spot, and there is no chance to consult, they may give certitude.
Why do souls not experience more of this guidance? It is because of their lack of receptivity, coming even from subconscious reluctances to do certain things. But our Lady was never held back by such things. She was always most perfectly faithful and responsive to the Spirit, who is therefore called her Spouse. St. John of the Cross writes well of souls on that high level (Ascent of Mt. Carmel 3. 2. 10 and Living Flame 1. 4): "... God alone moves the faculties of these souls do to the things that are right according to the will and arrangement of God, and they cannot be moved to do others... . Such were those of the most glorious Virgin, Our Lady , who, being raised to this high state from the start, never had the form of any creature imprinted in her soul, or was moved by such, but was always guided by the Holy Spirit."
Hence St. Louis de Montfort wrote (True Devotion §36): "When the Holy Spirit, her Spouse, has found Mary in a soul, He flies there, He enters there in His fullness, He communicates Himself to that soul abundantly, and to the full extent to which it makes room for His Spouse."
St. Maximilian Kolbe, a few hours before his final arrest on Feb. 17, 1941, wrote a splendid commentary: "Who is the Holy Spirit? The flowering of the love of the Father and the Son. If the fruit of created love is a created conception, then the fruit of divine Love... is necessary a divine 'conception. ' The Holy Spirit is, therefore, the 'uncreated eternal conception'... . This eternal 'Immaculate Conception' (which is the Holy Spirit) produces in an immaculate manner divine life itself in the womb (or depths) of Mary's soul, making her the Immaculate Conception [for thus she named herself at Lourdes]. If among human beings the wife takes the name of her husband because she belongs to him, is one with him... and is, with him, the source of new life, with how much greater reason should the name of the Holy Spirit, who is the divine Immaculate Conception, be used as the name of her in whom He lives as uncreated Love, the principle of life in the whole supernatural order of grace" (Cited from H. M. Manteau-Bonamy, Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit, Prow Books, Libertyville, 1977, pp. 3-5).
Origen, On John 1. 6:" No one can understand the meaning of the Gospel [of St. John] if he has not rested on the breast of Jesus and received Mary from Jesus, to be his mother too."
Pius XII, To Marian Congress of Ottawa, Canada, June 19, 1947, English text from AAS 39. 271: "When the little maid of Nazareth uttered her fiat to the message of the angel... she became not only the Mother of God in the physical order of nature, but also in the supernatural order of grace she became the Mother of all, who... would be made one under the Headship of her divine Son."
John XXIII, Discorsi II, pp. 65-66: "She is the Mother of the Church, and contributes with her all powerful prayer and the graces that flow over her hands onto the world."
Paul VI, Closing Speech to Third Session of Vatican II, Nov. 21, 1964: "For the glory of the Virgin and our consolation, we proclaim Mary the Most Holy Mother of the Church, that is, the Mother of the whole People of God, both the faithful and the pastors."
There had been a problem of how the Pope could define the Assumption. There seemed to be nothing in Scripture on it, and what things there were in the Tradition of the Fathers seemed to come not from an apostolic origin, but from some apocryphal stories that circulated chiefly beginning in the fourth century.
A Pope is not required to specify precisely where in the sources of revelation he finds a given doctrine. Yet, those documents often do review various things that at least in a way seem to support the teaching. We see an example of this in the Bull Ineffabilis Deus in which Pius IX defined the Immaculate Conception.
One thought that was clearly in the mind of Pius XII was the principle of consortium that she was "always sharing His lot" (AAS 42. 768).
In line with this, he showed the relation of the Assumption to the Immaculate Conception: "For these two privileges are most closely related to each other. Christ has overcome sin and death by His own death; and one who is reborn in a heavenly way through baptism has, through Christ Himself, conquered sin and death. However, in accord with His general rule, God does not wish to grant the full effect of victory over death to the just until the end of time shall have come.... Yet God wished that the Blessed Virgin Mary be exempt from this general law. For she, by a completely singular privilege, conquered sin in her Immaculate Conception, and thus was not liable to that law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, nor did she have to wait for the end of time for the redemption of her body." (AAS 42. 754).
Pius XII next said he had asked the opinions of all the Bishops of the world on the Assumption. Their response was almost unanimous in the affirmative. The universal teaching of the authorities of the Church by itself, he tells us, gives us a proof. (Cf. LG §§ 25 and 12).
He next reviewed some of the outstanding statements of Tradition throughout all the centuries. This teaching is found at a very early date in the liturgical books. After the patristic age, the same doctrine was studied in detail by scholastic theologians. For example, he quotes the words of St. Bernardine of Siena who ". . gathered up and carefully treated everything that medieval theologians had said and discussed on this matter. He was not satisfied to repeat the chief considerations which doctors of previous times had already proposed, but added others of his own. For the likeness of the Mother of God and the Divine Son in regard to nobility of soul and body—a likeness which forbids the very thought that the heavenly Queen should be separated from the heavenly King—absolutely demands that Mary 'must not be anywhere but where Christ is. ' And furthermore, it is reasonable and fitting that not only the soul and body of a man, but also the soul and body of a woman should have already attained heavenly glory. Finally, since the Church has never sought for bodily relics of the Blessed Virgin, nor exposed them for the veneration of the faithful, we have an argument which can be considered as 'practically a proof by sensory experience. '" (AAS 42. 765-66. )
He then speaks of St. Francis de Sales, who "after stating that it would be wrong to doubt that Jesus Christ has kept in the most perfect way the divine commandment that children honor their parents, puts this question: 'What son, if he could, would not bring his mother back to life, and take her, after death, into paradise?'" (AAS 42. 766. )
We have given only a sample of the great review of earlier teachings given in the Munificentissimus Deus. After this survey, the Pope sums up: "All these arguments and considerations of the Holy Fathers rest on the Sacred Writings as their ultimate foundation. These place the revered Mother of God as it were before our eyes, as most closely joined to her Divine Son, and always sharing in His lot. Hence it seems practically impossible to think of her who conceived Christ, brought Him forth, gave Him milk, held Him in her hands and pressed Him to her heart as being separated from Him after this earthly life in body, even though not in soul." (AAS 42. 767-68).
But it seems that the precise ground for the definition is in the following passage just before the definition: " We must remember especially that, since the second century, the Virgin Mary has been presented by the Holy Fathers as the New Eve, who, although subject to the New Adam, was most closely associated with Him in that struggle against the infernal enemy which, as foretold in the protoevangelium, was to result in that most complete victory over sin and death, which are always correlated in the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles. Wherefore, just as the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part and final sign of this victory, so also that struggle which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her Son had to be closed by the 'glorification' of her virginal body." (AAS 42. 768. )
The thought is brilliant. The Pope first recalled the New Eve theme, which we have seen. Then he focused on the fact, within that theme, that the New Eve had been closely associated with the New Adam in the struggle against sin and death. Still further, in the case of her Son, that struggle had brought glorification. Since the struggle was in common to both, then a common cause would have a common effect: it had to bring a parallel glorification to her, the Assumption.
Comments: 1. We notice that her cooperation in the redemption is described strongly: the struggle was in common. This cannot be taken loosely for the Pope uses it, it seems, as the chief support for a solemn definition.
2. Pius XII carefully refrained from saying in his own words at any point that she died. Some, even a few of the Fathers, had denied that she ever died: basing this on the fact that death was the result of original sin, which she lacked. However, because as Pius XII also said, she was "always sharing His lot," for this reason, likeness to Him, it seems much more probable that she did die.
3. How did she die? St. John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love 1. 30 says: "For while the deaths of others may come from sickness or old age, when these souls die, even though it may be from sickness or old age, their souls are carried away by nothing less than some loving impulse and encounter that is higher and of greater power and strength than any in the past. For it can break the web, and carry off the jewel of the spirit. So the deaths of such souls is sweet and gentle, more so than their spiritual life in the past, for they die in delightful encounters and lofty impulses of love." Similarly, St. Francis de Sales, in his Treatise on the Love of God 7. 14: "... we must not suppose an impetuous agitation in this heavenly love of the motherly heart of the Virgin. For love in itself is sweet, gracious, peaceful, calm... . It was in this way then that holy love worked its force in the virginal heart of the Holy Mother, without any violent impulse, for it found no resistance or hindrance at all." He adds (13. 24) that love at the cross gave her the supreme sorrows of death. So it was right that finally death should give her the sovereign pleasure of love."
The beginning of the concept that she is a Queen is found in the annunciation narrative. For the angel tells her that her Son will be King over the house of Jacob forever. So she, His Mother, would be a Queen.
The Fathers of the Church soon picked up these implications. A text probably coming from Origen (died c. 254: cf. Marian Studies 4, 1953, 87) gives her the title domina, the feminine form of Latin dominus. That same title also appears in many other early writers, e.g. , St. Ephrem, St. Jerome, St. Peter Chrysologus. (cf. Marian Studies 4. 87-91. The word Queen appears abut the sixth century, and is common thereafter (Marian Studies, 4, 91-94. )
The titles of king or queen are often used loosely, for those beings that excel in some way. Thus we call the lion the king of beasts, the rose the queen of flowers. Surely Our Lady deserves the title richly for such reasons. But there is much more.
Some inadequate reasons have been suggested: She is the daughter of David. But not every child of a king becomes a king or queen. Others have pointed out that she was free from original sin. Then, since Adam and Eve had a dominion over all things (Genesis 1. 26) she should have similar dominion. But the problem is that the royalty of Adam and Eve was largely metaphorical.
The solidly theological reasons for her title of Queen are expressed splendidly by Pius XII, in his Radio message to Fatima, Bendito seja (AAS 38. 266): "He, the Son of God, reflects on His heavenly Mother the glory, the majesty and the dominion of His kingship, for, having been associated to the King of Martyrs in the unspeakable work of human Redemption as Mother and cooperator, she remains forever associated to Him, with a practically unlimited power, in the distribution of the graces which flow from the Redemption. Jesus is King throughout all eternity by nature and by right of conquest: through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him, Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular choice [of the Father]. And her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son and God, since nothing is excluded from her dominion."
We notice that there are two titles for the kingship of Christ: divine nature, and "right of conquest", i.e. , the Redemption. She is Queen "through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him." The qualifications are obvious, and need no explanation. Her Queenship is basically a sharing in the royalty of her Son. We do not think of two powers, one infinite, the other finite. No, she and her Son are inseparable, and operate as a unit.
Of the four titles Pius XII gave for her Queenship , we notice that two are closely parallel to those of Jesus: (1) He is king by nature, as God, she is Queen by "divine relationship" that is, by being the Mother of God. In fact her relation to her Son is greater than that of ordinary Mothers of Kings. For she is the Mother of Him who is King by very nature, from all eternity, and the relationship is exclusive, for He had no human father. Still further, the ordinary queen-mother gives birth to a child who later will become king. The son of Mary is, as we said, eternally king, by His very nature. He is king by right of conquest. (2) She too is Queen by right of conquest. We already saw that this title for Him means that He redeemed us from the captivity of Satan. She shared in the struggle and victory. Since the Pope expressed her dependence on Him in a threefold way—something we would have known anyway—then it is clear that he did not have in mind any other restriction which he did not express. So, with subordination, "by right of conquest" means the same for her as it does for Him.
The other two titles: (3)She is Queen by grace. She is full of grace, the highest in the category of grace besides her Son. (4)She is Queen by singular choice of the Father. A mere human can become King or Queen by choice of the People. How much greater a title is the choice of the Father Himself!
Pius XII added that "nothing is excluded from her dominion." As Mediatrix of all graces, who shared in earning all graces, she is, as Benedict XV said in a text already cited, "Suppliant omnipotence": she can obtain by her intercession anything that the all-powerful God can do by His own inherent power.
In the OT, under some Davidic kings, the gebirah, the "Great Lady", usually the Mother of the King, held great power as advocate with the king. Cf. 1 KGB 2:20, where Solomon said to his Mother Bathsheba, seated on a throne at his right: "Make your request, Mother, for I will not refuse you." Here is a sort of type of Our Lady.
We already saw that Pius XII said she is "always sharing His lot." Vatican II brings this truth out brilliantly, in great detail. We are going to read a mosaic, as it were, of texts some of which we have already seen, assembled from all over chapter 8 of LG. We suggest as you read these, to try to find the common thread running through all of them. Of course, at the end, we will explain what that is.
"The Blessed Virgin, planned for from eternity as the Mother of God along with the incarnation of the divine Word, was the loving Mother of the Redeemer on this earth, His generous associate, more than others, and the humble servant of the Lord... . She is already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise given to our first parents of victory over the serpent... similarly, she is Virgin who is to conceive and bear a Son... . The Father of Mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by her acceptance... so that just as a woman contributed to death, so also a woman should contribute to life... . So Mary, consenting to the divine word, became the Mother of Jesus, and embracing the saving will of God with full heart, held back by no sin, totally dedicated herself as the handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son, under Him and with Him, by grace of almighty God, serving the mystery of redemption... . the Fathers rightly consider Mary ... as cooperating with free faith and obedience for human salvation. For she, as St. Irenaeus said 'by obeying, became a cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race. Hence not a few ancient Fathers in their preaching gladly assert with him: "the knot of the disobedience of Eve was loosed through the obedience of Mary... ." this union of the Mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of His virginal conception to His death. It is shown first of all when Mary, arising in haste to go to visit Elizabeth, is greeted by her as blessed because of her faith... . This union is manifest also at the birth of Our Lord, who did not diminish His Mother's virginal, integrity, but sanctified it... . [and] when the Mother of God joyfully showed her firstborn Son to the Shepherds and the Magi... . In the public life of Jesus, Mary makes significant appearances... . she brought about by her intercession the beginning of the miracles of Jesus. In the course of her Son's preaching she received the words whereby He declared blessed those who heard and kept the word of God, as she was faithfully doing... . she persevered in her union with her Son even to the Cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, uniting herself with a motherly heart to His sacrifice, and lovingly consenting... . 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, faith, hope and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls. Hence she is our Mother in the order of grace... . We see the Apostles in prayer with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus... and Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit... . Finally the Immaculate Virgin... was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the Universe, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of Lords and conqueror of sin and death."
What is the common thread running through these texts? We see that although the Father did not need to go so far, yet as a matter of fact, the position He has freely chosen to give her in all of His approach to us is simply all-pervading. She is everywhere.
Obviously, if we wish to imitate His ways most fully, that would mean we would give her a similarly all-pervading place in our response to Him. Surely it would be flying in the face of the Father's plan to have no devotion at all to her. He has put here everywhere; such a one would will to put her nowhere.
We said if to stress the fact that what is objectively the best is not always obligatory for each one. In particular, there is a variety of spiritual attractions. Not all are led by the same spiritual paths. Yes, the basic principles of the spiritual life are the same for everyone. But there is a secondary tier, as it were, in which there is room for great diversity. For example, St. Francis de Sales was a highly refined gentleman. But St. Benedict Joseph Labre lived much like a tramp in the ruins of Rome, spending his days in the churches. There is even an anecdote that if one of his body lice tried to crawl out of his sleeve, he would push it back again, for mortification. Again, St. Francis of Assisi, if we can accept the story—there are many legends about him—was reluctant to let his brothers have even a few books. But St. Thomas Aquinas was the perfectly bookish man.
If, however, a person would choose to imitate the ways of the Father in this matter, that would be the same as living out a complete Marian consecration. We shall have more to say about consecration later on. We can see, that Vatican II built a splendid theological basis for a full Marian consecration.
We saw at the start the reports of the media that the Council had voted to downgrade her. By now we see how far from the truth that was. Actually, the Council went farther theologically—immediate cooperation in the objective redemption—and wrote more extensively—all of chapter 8 of LG—than all previous councils combined. It would deserve then to be called the Marian Council.
We just saw the excellent theological base it built for a total Marian consecration. In addition, it made a broad recommendation (LG 67): "This most holy Synod deliberately teaches this Catholic doctrine [the previous parts of chapter 8, which we have seen] and it admonishes all the sons of the Church that they should generously cultivate devotion, especially liturgical devotion, towards the Blessed Virgin, and that they should consider of great importance the practices and exercises of piety toward her that were recommended by the Magisterium of the Church over the course of centuries."
This means, that in spite of all talk about updating, everything in Marian devotion that the Church has ever recommended is still "of great importance." Of course that includes the Rosary, and Marian consecration, among other things.
Pope Paul VI, on the floor of the Council, at the close of the third session, publicly renewed the consecration of the Church and the world to her Immaculate Heart. He said that his thoughts turned to the whole world, "which our venerated predecessor Pius XII... not without inspiration from on high, solemnly consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary... ... O Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, to you we recommend the entire Church." (AAS 56, 1964. 1017). When he visited Fatima on May 13, 1967, the same Pope recalled this "consecration which we ourselves have renewed on November 21, 1964—we exhort all the sons of the Church to renew personally their consecration to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of the Church, and to bring alive this most noble act of veneration through a life ever more in accord with the divine will and in a spirit of filial service and of devout imitation of their heavenly Queen." (AAS 59. 475).
Paul VI also, in his Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis cultus, of Feb. 2, 1974, AAS 66 # 56 wrote :"The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is an intrinsic element of Christian worship. Leo XIII said (Augustissimae Virginis, Sept 12, 1897. ASS 30. 133):"... so great is the favor she enjoys with God, that he who when in need of help would not run to her would want to fly without wings."
Do Catholics worship her? Protestants often claim that. But let us examine the command of Our Lord (Mt 7:1): "Judge Not".
We distinguish two things: a) the objective rating of an action, e.g. , murder is gravely sinful. We can say this independently of the interior dispositions of anyone who does it. If I see someone put a gun to another's head and pull the trigger, it is not "judging" to say I saw murder.
b) The interior dispositions of the sinner—here we must not judge, for at least in general, we cannot know much if anything of the interior. It is to this that the Gospel command applies.
Therefore: as to Marian devotion: a) the forms it takes, asking her to intercede with her Son, lighting candles etc—these are not in themselves worship. What of the eternal flame at the grave of JFK?
b) The interior attitudes of Catholics: to insist they mean it to be worship, i. e, the kind of honor due to God alone—this is simply rash judgment, and is forbidden by "Judge not." So those who make the charge are guilty of objective sin, and of violating the Gospel. To insist they know our interior dispositions when we tell them otherwise, is not only rash judgment, but perversity.
Jesus obeyed the fourth commandment to honor Father and Mother, for He went down to Nazareth and was even subject to them. If He honored her, we can and should imitate Him. God Himself has honored her so greatly. For anyone to say: I reject her, will not honor her, would be an affront to His judgment.
"And a great sign appeared in the sky: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. And being with child, she cried out, laboring in birth, and was in pain to be delivered. And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon... and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered so that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her son was taken up to God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, that there they should feed her a thousand two hundred sixty days... . And when the dragon saw that he was cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the man child. And there were given to the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the desert into her place, where she is nourished for a time and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent... . And the dragon was angry against the woman, and went to make war with the rest of her seed... ."
St. Pius X, Ad diem illum. ASS 36. 458—59: "No one of us does not know that that woman signifies the Virgin Mary, who brought forth our Head with her virginity intact. But the Apostle continues: 'And being with child, she cried out, laboring in birth, and was in pain to be delivered. ' Therefore John saw the Most Holy Mother of God already enjoying eternal happiness, and yet laboring from some hidden birth. With what birth? Surely ours, we who, being yet detained in exile, are still to be brought forth to the perfect love of God and eternal happiness."
Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus. AAS 41. 762-63: "We frequently find theologians and preachers who, following the footsteps of the Holy Fathers, use words and events from sacred Scripture with some freedom to explain their belief in the Assumption... . And furthermore, the Scholastic doctors have considered the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as signified not only in the various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun, whom the Apostle John contemplated on the island of Patmos."
Paul VI, Signum Magnum, May 13, 1967 AAS 59: "The great sign which the Apostle John saw in heaven, 'a woman clothed with the sun' is interpreted by the sacred liturgy, not without foundation, as referring to the most Blessed Mary, the Mother of all men by the grace of Christ the Redeemer."
John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, March 15, 1987. Vatican Translation. #24: "... she who was the one 'full of grace' was brought into the mystery of Christ in order to be his Mother and thus the Holy Mother of God, through the Church remains in that mystery as 'the woman' spoken of by the Book of Genesis (3:15) at the beginning and by the Apocalypse (12:1) at the end of the history of salvation."
Comments: 1. St. Pius X says flatly that John saw Mary in this passage. Pius XII is less clear, he attributes the interpretation to the Fathers and Scholastic Doctors. Paul VI says the liturgy sees her in this text "not without foundation". But John Paul II is rather explicit.
2. Some features of the image surely fit Our Lady, specially the rule "with an iron rod" which clearly reflects Psalm 2. 9 speaking of the Messiah. Yet the pain in birth seems to be more apt for the Church than for Our Lady. Hence it is likely we have here a well known Hebrew pattern, in which an individual stands for, and even is identified with a group. Then it will be both Mary and the Church. For an excellent defense of the view that the woman is both Mary and the Church, cf. B. J. Le Frois, The Woman Clothed with the Sun, Orbis Catholicus, Rome, 1954. Le Frois suggests that if the image stands for both Mary and the Church, then it could be a forecast that before the end of time, the Church will take on especially Marian character, an age of Mary. St. Louis de Montfort in True Devotion #49 predicts an age of Mary.
1)The Rosary: Although certain devotional practices of reciting many Aves and even counting devices of beads were known before the time of St. Dominic, yet it seems clear that we ought to consider him as the author of the Rosary in some sense at least, even if we do not believe that Our Lady appeared to him and gave him the Rosary as a weapon against the Albigensian heresy. Many Popes have given this title to St. Dominic—e.g. Alexander VI, Leo X, St. Pius V, Gregory XIII, Sixtus V, Clement VIII, Alexander VII, Clement IX, Clement X, Innocent XI, Benedict XIII, Benedict XIV, Clement XIV, Pius VII, Pius IX, Leo XIII, Benedict XV, Pius XI. They do not seem, however, to have intended to impose this as a teaching. Really, it could not be done, for it is a historical matter rather than a matter of faith, and it is also a matter of private revelation. The teaching commission of the Church extends only to public revelation.
Leo XIII was especially outstanding for his love of the Rosary, for which he wrote numerous Encyclicals—we have seen citations from them in connection with the title Mediatrix of all Graces.
However the value and the power of the Rosary is quite independent of the question of St. Dominic's relationship. Especially important is the fact that St. Pius V attributed that defeat of the Turkish fleet at Lepanto in the Gulf of Corinth on the first Sunday of October, 1571 to the fact that Rosary confraternities at Rome and elsewhere were holding their processions that day. The Turks then posed a real threat, wanting to take over all of Europe. So he ordered a commemoration of the Rosary to be made on that day. Two years later, Gregory XIII allowed the celebration of a feast of the Rosary in churches having an altar dedicated to the Rosary. In 1671 Clement X extended the feast to all Spain. A second great victory over the Turks came on August 5, 1716 when Prince Eugene defeated them at Peterwardein in Hungary. Thereupon Clement XI extended the feast of the Rosary to the whole Church.
The apparitions at Lourdes and at Fatima, warmly approved by the Church, called for the Rosary, and Popes Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II have strongly favored it.
In saying the Rosary, we are not asked to attend to the words of each Ave—it would be virtually impossible. Rather we are urged to meditate on the mysteries while reciting the prayers.
2)The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel: A tradition for which the historical evidence is very good reports that St. Simon Stock, Prior of the Carmelites in England, where they had newly been transplanted in 1251, prayed earnestly to her for help. In an early Carmelite Catalog of the Saints, we find the following account: "The ninth was St. Simon of England, the sixth General of the Order. He constantly begged the most glorious Mother of God to fortify the Carmelite Order... with some privilege. He prayed most devoutly... . To him did the Blessed Virgin appear with a multitude of angels, holding the scapular of the Order in her blessed hands, and saying: 'This will be a privilege for you and for all Carmelites, that he who dies in this will not suffer eternal fire," that is, he who dies in this will be saved." The vision came on July 16, 1251.
The above account it taken from an early Carmelite Catalog of Saints. Since this vision is a part of private revelations, we need to investigate. For there are two kinds of revelation, public and private. Public revelation is that which is found in Scripture and Tradition; it was complete, closed when the last Apostle died and the New Testament was finished. There is to be no new public revelation until His glorious return at the end of the world.
All other revelations are called private. The term is not too good, for we use that term even for Fatima, which is addressed to the whole world. Yet since the term is usual, we will employ it now.
A great difference exists between public and private revelation. In public revelation, the Church has the promise of divine protection in teaching, such as that found in Luke 10:16: "He who hears you, hears me". But for private revelations, the Church does not have such a commission.
As a result it is important for us to explore the evidence for the historicity of this vision given to St. Simon Stock. However, even though it is as matter of private, not public revelation, we will soon find that not only is the historical evidence for it very good, but we have a different kind of assurance even stemming from the area of public revelation. But first, we explore the history of the vision.
There are six different forms of the Carmelite Catalogs of the Saints. The oldest copy we possess, the Oxford manuscript, was composed in 1426. But the Paris manuscript probably comes from the last part of the 1300s—we recall the vision was in 1251. So this is close. However, we mean merely that our oldest copy comes from the late 1300s. More importantly we ask: when was the original composed, of which we have these copies? It seems that all six catalogs that we possess go back to some earlier original. There is reason for this: the Catalog must have had a rather large circulation in the 1300s since it was able to appear in several forms by the end of that century. So the original must be well before the end of the 1300s.
But there is added reason to push back the date of the original Catalog well into the 1300s, namely one of these catalogs, the third form, mentions only a Constitution of Pope Boniface VIII issued in 1298 in favor of the Carmelites, whereas text 1 cites other later papal texts, namely, those from John XXII of March 13, 1317 and Clement VI, of July 19, 1347. Since the #3 form of the text does not seem to know these documents of 1317 and 1347, but knows only a papal text of 1298, it seems that the text 3 goes back to within 50 years of the vision. This is really remarkable.
But there is more. Around the year 1291, William of Sanvico, a Carmelite in the Holy Land, recorded that at that time the Order was in great difficulties in England, and the Blessed Virgin appeared to the Prior and told him to go to Pope Innocent IV for help. Now since Sanvico gives no details of the vision, this very fact helps to show his testimony is independent of the catalogs. Yet he does agree with the catalogs in reporting a vision as taking place at precisely the right time and in the right circumstances.
Still another point shows that Sanvico has independent sources for his information, namely the catalogs do not mention the appeal to Pope Innocent, which Sanvico does mention.
So we have it seems two independent and early witnesses, each within about 50 years of the vision.
In addition, the Carmelite Constitutions at a very early date show remarkable insistence on wearing the scapular. Thus the Constitution of 1369 orders automatic excommunication for a Carmelite who would say Mass without his scapular. And even earlier, the Constitutions of 1324 and even 1294 consider it a grave fault to sleep without the scapular.
There are still other pieces of evidence. But let us single out just one thing. We have the minutes of the meetings of a Carmelite confraternity for laymen in Florence, from August 22 1280 to Nov. 1, 1298. In the entry for November 1, 1298 we read that some men who had been deprived of membership for some reason, came to the officers to the Confraternity to seek pardon. They were wearing capuches—and we know the Scapular was once called a capuche. Still another entry in the minutes of the same Confraternity has what seems to be an allusion to the great promise. It says that the members met "to render glory to God and to His glorious Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, that she may grant and give us the grace that we may be able to persevere in good and to come to a truly good end."
Further, many saints and scholars are shown remarkable esteem for the Scapular. We mention just one item. St. John Bosco who died in 1888 was buried in his Scapular. When his body was exhumed in 1929 the scapular was found intact beneath the rotted garments, for the rest of his clothing had decayed.
Does this sound a bit technical and difficult? It is not really difficult. We regret that it has to include so much discussion of data. But our purpose is to show that the historical evidence that the Scapular vision really took place is very solid. And it is solid.
However, there is another way of working, which is much easier and even more satisfactory. It is this. The great Pius XII wrote a letter to the major superiors of the Carmelites, to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the vision. Among other things he said: "There is no one who is not aware how greatly a love for the Blessed Virgin Mother of God contributes to the enlivening of the Catholic faith... . In the first rank of the most favored of these devotions that of the Holy Carmelite Scapular must be placed." This is indeed a very high recommendation. The Pope continued: "Therefore it has pleased us greatly to learn of the decision of our Carmelite Brethren... to take all pains to pay homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary in as solemn a manner as possible on the occasion of the Seventh centenary of the Institution of the Scapular.
Ordinarily, when Popes make mention of any private vision or revelation, they will inject some qualifying expression such as, "it is said" or similar things. This is to show that he is speaking of something from private revelations, and that on them the Church does not , strictly speaking, have the authority to give a definitive interpretation. Now such is the case with the Scapular too. Yet Pius XII did not add any such qualifier to this letter. Instead he said, "Most willingly do we commend so pious an undertaking... . For not with a light or passing matter are we here concerned but with the obtaining of eternal life itself which is the substance of the Promise of the Most Blessed Virgin which has been handed down to us. We are concerned, namely, with that which is of supreme importance to all and with the manner of achieving it safely."
These are indeed remarkable words. The Pope spoke of the scapular as of the "manner of achieving safely" our eternal salvation. He then added: "For the Holy Scapular, which may be called the Habit or Garment of Mary, is a sign and a pledge of the protection of the Mother of God."
What conditions are required to gain so great a promise? First of all, the vision spoke of this as a privilege for "all Carmelites." So it is necessary to be in some way affiliated with the Order of Carmel. For most Catholics, this is accomplished through enrollment in the Confraternity of the Scapular. Formerly this was commonly done at the time of First Communion. Sadly, today many churches ignore it. So if one is not sure that he or she has had this done, it is important to check, and if certitude cannot be had, the pastor can provide a conditional enrollment.
But is there anything else required? Not a few Catholics--including some who should know better—insist that she should know what the requirements are. That she mentioned nothing other than wearing the Scapular at the time of death. Therefore we must not add anything else.
Again, Pius XII helps us. In the same letter he also wrote: "But not for this reason, however, may they who wear the Scapular think that they can gain eternal salvation while remaining sinful and negligent of spirit, for the Apostle warns us: 'In fear and trembling shall you work out your salvation. '"
Pope Benedict XIV, writing as a private theologian, not as Pope, has given us a most valuable treatise, "On the Feasts of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary." He points out that Sacred Scripture contains many promises that seem to demand only one condition, e.g. , St. Paul in Romans 3:28 seems to promise salvation for Faith alone; but in Romans 8:24 he says that we are saved by hope". And Tobias in 12:9 says that "It is almsgiving that saves one from eternal death. And Our Lord Himself promises eternal life to those who receive the Holy Eucharist. So Pope Benedict XIV pointed out that is obvious that there are other conditions presupposed. What other things? Kilian Lynch, Prior General of the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance, puts it this way: "How much good will is required to obtain the promise of the Scapular? Eternity alone will answer the question, for we should be careful not to place limits on the mercy of her who is the refuge of sinners and the Mother of mercy."
Pius XII helped much at this point: "Finally, may it be to them a Sign of their consecration to the Most Sacred Heart of the Immaculate Virgin, which in recent times we have so strongly recommended."
If one follows that recommendation , there is no need to measure: he most surely has all that is needed. For a consecration, properly understood, is indeed a great act of devotion to Our Lady.
But now it is time to add something of even greater importance. We have been saying more than once that the Vision of St Simon Stock belongs to the area of private revelation, and that the Church, strictly speaking, does not have a divine promise of interpreting these rightly, or of guaranteeing that the vision did indeed take place. But we said at the outset that we have something that is a greater assurance. And we do have it.
We get this from a teaching we have already cited of Pope Pius XI in Explorata res of Feb. 2, 1923:". . nor would he incur eternal death whom the Most Blessed Virgin assists, especially at his last hour. This opinion of the Doctors of the Church, in harmony with the sentiments of the Christian people, and supported by the experience or all times, depends especially on this reason, the fact that the Sorrowful Virgin shared in the work of redemption with Jesus Christ."
Let us note well: here we have crossed over from the area of merely private revelations into that of public revelation. There the Church does have teaching authority, and Pius XI has just told us that the protection of the Blessed Virgin will protect one from eternal death. Further, besides this teaching of Pius XI, we have very similar words from Pius XII and Benedict XV. Benedict XV wrote (Apostolic Letter Inter Sodalicia, March 22, 1918. AAS 10, 1918, 182): "There is a most constant view among the faithful, proved by long experience, that whoever employs the same Virgin as Patron, will not perish forever." Pius XII spoke similarly in his Encyclical, Mediator Dei (Nov. 20, 1947. AAS 29, 1957. 584: "The cult of the Virgin Mother of God which, according to the view of holy men, is a sign of 'predestination'."
Comments: We note that the Popes say that the view that solid Marian devotion makes salvation certain is the constant view of the Christian people. Vatican II, LG 12 wrote: "The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief." That is, if the whole Church, authorities and people alike, have ever believed (accepted as revealed) a truth, that belief cannot be in error. It is infallible.
As Prior Kilian Lynch said, in the citation above, we cannot measure precisely how much devotion is needed. Yet it is surely safe to say, as Pius XII said in his Letter for the 700th anniversary of the Scapular, that wearing the Scapular as a sign of a solid and lived consecration will surely suffice. We are going to present the fullest possible form of Marian consecration. We do not say that all must go that far. But we can say that to go so far removes all question.
But we want to note specially the very wording of Pius XI. He said flatly that, "he will not incur eternal death." To explain this we recall that there is a vital question of final perseverance. To illustrate: If I look ahead to the next time I will have a temptation, and ask: Will God then give me the graces needed to win? The answer is of course: Yes. And it is yes no matter how many times I look into the future. But—and this is the critical point—to continue cooperating with these graces, not just once, but over a long period, even to death—that needs something extra and special. That something special is called the grace of final perseverance. Does God offer everyone such a gift? Some older theologians, sadly, said no. He might decide simply not to offer it to some. Would it be to those who were in mortal sin? Not necessarily, they used to reply. He might decide simply without any such reason not to give it...
But this amounts to heresy. For St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: (1 Thes. 5:23-24): "May the God of peace make you holy in all things, so that your entire spirit and soul and body may be kept without complaint at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who called you is faithful and He will also do it." Similarly, he wrote in Phil 1:6: "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it, up to the day of Christ Jesus." And in 1 Cor 1:8-9: "He will confirm you even to the end without blame, on the day of Our Lord Jesus Christ. God through whom you were called into sharing with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord is faithful."
So we have triple assurance from St. Paul of this: God will offer this grace of final perseverance to everyone. How then could the Council of Trent teach that we cannot be sure of having this grace? Very easily. We watch the wording. St. Paul made clear God will offer it—but it is one thing for God to offer it, another thing for me to have it. If He offers, but I do not accept, but instead reject, I will not have it.
Is there then any way of protecting the possibility, that I might reject it? There is no promise in Scripture for that. But yet Pius XI said flatly that he whom the Blessed Virgin assists at his last hour will not suffer eternal death. In other words, he is promising that one devoted to her will not, as a matter of fact, reject that grace of perseverance. She, of course, whom Pope Benedict XV called "suppliant omnipotence" will bring it about. That expression "suppliant omnipotence" is fascinating. It means that everything that God Himself can do by His own inherent power, she can obtain by her intercession. So she will obtain for those devoted to her that they will not fail that all important final grace.
Again, we recall that this assurance comes not from private revelation, over which the Church does not have the authority to guarantee it, but it comes from three Popes speaking without the support of any private revelation. Rather, Pius XI appeals to the fact that she, "shared in the work of redemption" with Jesus. We have already dwelt at length on this sharing.
What is our conclusion? We have seen that the historical evidence that the vision to St. Simon Stock really did take place. We saw that that evidence is very solid. But we can add: even if by some chance that vision never did take place, yet one who cultivates a real consecration to her, of which Pius XII spoke, cannot be lost, for the reason that she, suppliant omnipotence, will not permit it to happen that such a one be eternally lost. We saw the question raised of just how much devotion to her is needed to assure us of this effect. While we cannot measure it, we can say with fullest confidence: One who not only makes, but most fully lives a complete consecration to her will surely obtain this priceless privilege. Later in this chapter we will explain how to make and live such a consecration.
There is also a Sabbatine Privilege connected to the Brown Scapular. The report is that Pope John XXII had a vision of Our Lady on March 3, 1322, in which liberation from purgatory was promised on the first Saturday after death, on three conditions: 1)Wear the Scapular 2) Observe 6th and 9th commandments according to one's state in life 3) say the Little Office, or, if illiterate, observance of the fasts of the Church plus abstinence on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The requirement of the Office can be commuted by a priest who has the faculty. A daily rosary is a common commutation. Those bound to the large office fulfill the condition by saying it.
The original copy of the bull was lost. This is not too strange in view of the disturbed state of Rome after the sack of 1527. Some other documents of the same Pope are also lost. There was a copy of the bull, given by Pope Clement VII, dated May 15, 1528, but for some reason it was never solemnly issued, and so is technically invalid. The same Pope on August 12, 1530 did issue a transcript, but it promised only special help, not liberation.
A part of a full consecration consists in imitating her virtues.
There seems to be some sort of a problem: St. Paul says it is faith the decides whether or not we are justified; yet the critical condition in the New Covenant is obedience, while love is the great commandment. Yet, as we shall see now, although there is a theoretical difference among these three, yet in actual practice, they come to the same thing.
Yet the solution to the seeming problem is very easy: In St. Paul's thought, faith includes three things: 1)If God speaks a truth, faith will believe it; 2)if God makes a promise, faith will have confidence; 3)if God gives a command, faith will obey. So faith includes obedience, and to obey God is to love Him. For, to love anyone other than God means to will good to the other for the other's sake. But we cannot as it were say to God: "I hope you are well off, that you get what you need". For He needs nothing. Yet He does want us to obey, for two reasons: 1)His Holiness loves everything that is good and right. But it is only good and right that creatures should obey their Creator, children their Father. Hence He wants our obedience for that reason, even though it does Him no good whatsoever. 2)He wants to give good to us, for our sake, He wills us even the divine happiness of sharing His life in the next life. However, it does Him no good to try to give to us if we are not open to receive: His commandments tell us how to be open. At the same time, they steer us away from the evils that lurk in the very nature of things, e.g. , getting drunk brings a hangover, much premarital sex brings a great danger of a loveless marriage, for those who go in for much premarital sex are not really watching for the well-being of the other: they are putting each other into a state such that if death happened along, they would be wretched forever. This is closer to hatred than to love. So real love can hardly develop in such a framework. Hence. St. Paul says (Rom 8:17):"We are heirs together with Christ, provided that we suffer with Him, so we may also be glorified with Him." This is really part of Paul's great syn Christo theme: we are saved and made holy if and to the extent that we are members of Christ, and like Him. We gather this from Romans 6:3, 6, 8, 17; Col 3:1, 4; Eph 2:5-6.
So since faith includes obedience, they come to the same thing in practice. But also, as we have just explained, to obey God is to love Him. So again, the three coincide in practice.
She always obeyed. The Church teaches (Council of Trent DS 1573) she was entirely free of any sin all her life long. This comes to light first at the annunciation, where her reply to the Archangel was: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord", thereby echoing the words with which He had entered the world (Heb 10:7: "Behold, I come to do your will O God". Obedience is the condition of both old and new covenants (cf. Ex. 19. 5 and Rom 5. 19 and LG 3). Her love (for holiness is in practice the same as love) was so great that Pius IX taught (Ineffabilis Deus) that even at the start of her life, it was so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and only God can comprehend it." Her divine Son taught that all the law and the prophets are summed up in love.
How great was her faith? At the annunciation she certainly saw that her Son would be Messiah, and most likely that He was to be God Himself. She most likely gathered that from the angel saying that the Holy Spirit, would "overshadow" her—a word standing for the Divine Presence filing the ancient tabernacle. Then for this reason "the Holy One to be born would be called Son of God." That means: Son of God in a unique sense. (To this she would add, in pondering in her heart all the OT prophecies we saw above, tending to show His divinity). And the very word "overshadow" could easily suggest the divinity of the Holy Spirit, since it means the divine presence filling her as it once did the Tabernacle in the desert.
We have grown up with the thought of Three Divine Persons, who are but One only God. But to her, who had had it hammered into her that there was only one God—this would be an immense difficulty for faith. Then when her Son arrived and had the normal needs of other babies, her faith told her who it was. But her senses reported that it feels like just any other baby. And there would be more of this clash during the years to come. She also many times had to hold on in the dark, as we explained before.
Her love, as Pius IX told us (Ineffabilis Deus) was so great even at the start that (since love and holiness are interchangeable words) "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it".
Her obedience was expressed in her fiat: "Be it done to me according to your word." She knew all too much for comfort what that entailed, for she knew the prophecy of the passion in Isaiah 53, and other prophecies as well. She accepted to undergo all this. As Pope John Paul II wrote (Mater Redemptoris), on Calvary she made the greatest kenosis (self-emptying) in history, being asked to consent, to even will the terrible death of her Son for whom she had love so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it"
The virtue that makes room for love is humility. It teaches us to know who we are in relation to God, and to accept that truth at every level of our being. There is a problem about Our Lady's humility. People usually think that humble people say they are not good and so on. But she was magnificent in holiness, so much so that Pius IX taught, as we saw, in Ineffabilis Deus that even at the start, her holiness was so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it." We know she was humble. It is not her words in the Magnificat: "He has looked upon the humility of His handmaid (the Greek doule really means slave girl)". They really mean that God has chosen her in spite of her lowly, humble, estate. And we saw too that it is highly probable that she knew she was immaculately conceived. So, how could she be humble?
As we said, humility requires knowing what we are in relation to God, and accepting that at every level of our being. How in her case?
We get a start from St. Paul. In 2 Cor 3:5: "We are not sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as from ourselves. Our sufficiency is from God." (We are translating in line with the definition of the II Council of Orange (DS 377) rather than following the common version). It means that we are incapable of getting a good thought on our own: it must come from God. Then in Phil 2:13 (cf. DS 374): "It is God who works [produces] in us both the will and the doing." That is, even our good decisions, and carrying them out, comes from God. So: we cannot on our own get a good thought, make a good decision, or carry it out. It seems we are just puppets on a string. But yet we know that is not so. 2 Cor 6:1 also says: "We urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain." So it is evident: in some way—hard to say what way—we control whether grace comes in vain or not. Really the same teaching is all over Scripture, where it tells us to repent, to return to God.
How do we put together these seemingly contradictory teachings? Attempts have been made over the centuries. In 1597, Pope Clement VIII found that in Spain the Jesuits (Molinists) and Dominicans (who claimed to be following St. Thomas, were really following their own Domingo Banez) were at each other, were upsetting people on this topic, and on the related topic of predestination. Wisely the Pope gave an order: each group must send a delegation to Rome, to have a debate before a commission of Cardinals, to see who is right. The debates ran for ten years, with no result. The reason: both sides were sadly misusing Scripture, ignoring the context of every text. No wonder! Then after ten years, Pope Paul V consulted St. Francis de Sales, who was not only a Saint, but a splendid theologian, who had had a period of six weeks of blackness in 1586-87 from his understanding of the so-called Thomist theory (cf. his Letter 1974). He finally managed to muddle his way out. We find his results in his great Treatise on the Love of God, especially in 3. 5 and 4. 6 and 4. 5. Pope Pius IX praised St. Francis highly (ASS 10. 411-12): "... our Predecessor Paul V when the famous debate De auxiliis was being held at Rome, decided to ask the opinion of this bishop on the matter, and, following his advice, judged that this most subtle question, full of danger, and agitated long and keenly should be laid to rest, and that silence should be imposed on all parties." The Holy Spirit was really guiding the Church here! Pope Pius XI wrote (AAS 15. 56):"Taking opportunity, he [St. Francis de Sales] lucidly explained the most difficult questions, such as efficacious grace, predestination and the call to the faith."
So Pope Paul V gave an order in 1607 (DS 2997) that all must go home, stop calling each other names, and not even write on the subject without special permission, since it disturbed souls: DS 1997. Urban VIII through the Holy Office, on May 22, 1625 and Aug. 1, 1641 even threatened an automatic excommunication reserved to the Pope for disobeying this order: introduction to DS 1997.
So we will dismiss those two schools whom the Pope dismissed, even though they attempted to come back in our own times. Instead let us present a radically new way of solving the problem, which actually follows both St. Francis de Sales, and St. Thomas (in Contra gentiles 3. 159). But most of all we will adhere closely to Scripture. The process begins when God sends a grace of light to give the good thought of what He wills to lead a soul to do (2 Cor 3:5): He gives the soul the good thought. Even then, the soul cannot make a decision to accept it—Phil 2:13 says good decisions are moved in the soul by God. But clearly the soul could reject, or not reject. To non-reject gives the same effect as acceptance, but the mechanism as it were is radically different.
It is this: God sends a grace. Without help from me it causes me to see something as good, makes me favorably inclined (Not yet a decision). These things happen with no help from me. At this juncture, where I clearly could reject, but could not make a decision to accept (Phil 2:13) if I merely do not make a decision against the grace, if I non-reject, then grace continues in its course, and works in me both the will and the doing (Phil 2:13) in such a way that at the same moment I am cooperating with grace by power at that moment being received from grace (cf. Trent DS 1554).
If I look back and ask: what good did I generate in this process, that I did not receive from God? The answer is: The lack of a decision against the grace. So, on a ledger for myself, for what I have done on my own, without having received it from God, I write a zero. Therefore my self-esteem should be at zero. Then I look at the ledger for my sins: those I do produce on my own. So my self-esteem goes below zero!
Even Our Lady, magnificent, as she was and is, with holiness beyond the ability of anyone but God to comprehend, even she did not do more to produce good in what she did—though she did not have any entry on the debit side of the ledger for sins: she had none. Yet she knew all this. She knew what St. Paul was to write in 1 Cor 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?" So she could consider herself nothing before the Infinite Majesty. This is really what humility is, and she accepted it at all levels of her being, as we said: she did not even subconsciously grab some credit for herself.
St. Francis de Sales, Treatise 3. 5 wrote: "For although the gift of being God's belongs to God, yet this is a gift which God denies to no one, but offers to all, and gives to those who freely consent to receive it." But then, St. Francis gives more precision. Instead of saying "freely consents" he adds in 4. 6: "But all that—what is it but to receive the divine working and not to resist." So nonresistance is our contribution. So St. Francis continues in 4. 6: "Is it not the part of most insane impiety to think that you gave effective and holy activity to the divine inspiration because you did not take it away by resisting? We can hinder the efficacy of inspiration, but we cannot give efficacy to it."
If we think of the Aristotelian teaching on potency and actuality: A grace actualizes the potency of my mind to see something as good; that almost automatically makes me well disposed. If then I merely do not make a decision against it, grace continues, and works in me both the will and the doing, that is, it actualizes the potency of my will to consent, while making me able to cooperate at the same moment. Even that ability to cooperate was His gift to me. So I am left with nothing to claim as produced by myself. My contribution produced by my own power without God is, as St. Francis de Sales said, nonresistance! Again 1 Cor 4:7: "What have you that you have not received?" or St. Augustine in Epistle 194: "When God crowns your merits, He crowns nothing other than His own gifts."
The more perfectly a soul sees and accepts these truths, the more God will fill it with His graces. As St. Teresa of Avila wrote (Conceptions of Love of God 6) "God would never want to do other than give if He found souls to whom He could give."
Our Lady was so totally empty of self, so totally humble in the way described, that she was open to receive grace so great that "only God can comprehend it", and she could serve as the channel of all graces to all others.
The new theory we have sketched, was published in Rome in 1963 in Latin, received several fine reviews in Europe. Then it appeared in English translation in London in 1971, as New Answers to Old Questions. Whatever good is in it, then, it all comes from graces of light, which this writer did nothing to earn, merely did non-reject, as St. Francis says.
(A note on the difficult question of predestination. The old theories failed because they ignored the context of Romans 8:29 ff., and Ephesians 1, which speak of predestination to full membership in the Church, not predestination to heaven or the lack thereof. The new answer again is fully Scriptural (using three logical, not chronological, stages): 1)God wills all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4: Banez had denied that teaching of St. Paul, even though Romans 5:8 says God has "proved His love" by sending His Son to so horrible a death to make eternal life and all graces leading to it, available to us by the infinite title generated by the infinite price of redemption); 2)He looks to see who resists His grace gravely and persistently. He decrees, sadly, to let them go (reprobation after demerits); 3) all not rejected in stage 2 are positively predestined to heaven, not because of merits, which have not appeared on the screen at all yet, nor even because of a lack of gave and persistent resistance, but because in stage one, that is what He wanted and wants, that all be saved. These souls do not block His action: so we see predestination without merits. The same work, New Answers to Old Questions gives a full explanation on this question as well).
To help humility, mortification, and detachment from every creature is indispensable. She lived the life of a poor person, did not seek to share the acclaim of the crowds when they did praise her Son, but came into the darkness that hung over Calvary when all rejected Him.
All these virtues need the nourishment of mental prayer. St. Luke tells us what we would know without hearing it, that she pondered all these things in her heart.
The word consecration today varies in meaning. Sometimes it means merely to entrust to the care of Our Lady. At other times it means much more. Pope Leo XIII, in consecrating the world to the Sacred Heart in 1899 (cf Annum sacrum, May 15, 1899. ASS 31. 649) said that in consecration to the Sacred Heart, we as it were say to Him that even though all we have to give already belongs to Him—as Creator and Redeemer—we ask Him to graciously accept it again, on a title of love, and with the resolution to do much better. We owe all to Him since He made us out of nothing, and since He rescued us form the captivity of Satan in the redemption. So He is our King, to whom we owe all. He would not need to give us any compensation o reward, yet He wills to do that beyond what we can imagine.
Can we also consecrate ourselves to Our Lady? Some have said no, it is only through her to Him. But, even though our consecration to her is ultimately for Him, yet we also consecrate ourselves to her. She as Queen (let us recall what was said in our treatment of Queenship, above), shares in His claim to our service, for she is the Mother of the Creator and the one who at such cost shared in redeeming us. Really, we should not think of two powers over us, one infinite, the other finite. No, Jesus and Our Lady act together, as one principle, per modum unius.
The most basic consecration is to God, through our Baptism. But this commitment is largely negative, to avoid sin. It does not explicitly add the positive note of complete service. Consecration does add that note: it says that even though we already owe all to God, to the Heart of Jesus, as Creator and Redeemer, we want to give it all anew, and most fully, on a title of love.
Mary, as we said, is Queen, and so shares, as Mother of the Creator, and as Cooperator in the Redemption, in these titles to our service. We make the same offering therefore to her in union with Him. We recall too that in the consecration we try to imitate her perfect response to the Father, made possible by her Immaculate Conception.
Vatican II showed us, as we saw above, the implications for living such a consecrated life: the Father has put her everywhere in His approach to us. Logically, then, we would put here everywhere in our response to Him. This fullness of Marian devotion is, however, not mandatory, merely ideal. There is a diversity of spiritual attractions. Not all are obliged to the objectively best in every category.
a) Preparation: While, strictly speaking, a consecration could be made merely silently and interiorly, by one act of the will, yet it is far better to make a preparation, and to make the act itself with the recitation of a good formula, even with some solemnity. The True Devotion book of St. Louis de Montfort contains in a supplement one concrete form—others are quite possible. It includes 12 preliminary days, followed by three weeks. It can be very helpful.
b) Living out the consecration: There are several ways to describe this. We will propose a synthetic presentation, for the sake of clarity. We could sum it all up by saying that it calls for a spirit of union, a spirit of dependence, and a spirit of obedience to her.
(1) The spirit of union: We try to (a) live like her, in imitation of her virtues and (b) under her eyes.
(a) Imitation: She, by her Immaculate Conception, made the only perfect response to the goodness of the Father. We should try, at a distance, to imitate her in this. St. Maximilian Kolbe even speaks, in a somewhat poetic way, of "becoming her" or "being in her" (SK 579), so that we "forget ourselves " (Gli Scritti di Massimiliano Kolbe, Florence, Citta di Vita, 1975-79, hereinafter: SK 432) and are "annihilated in her, changed into her, transubstantiated into her" (SK 508). Of course, we are not really annihilated, or changed into her or transubstantiated. But behind these poetic expressions lies a great reality.
To begin to see it, we recall that there are three levels of guides one may follow in making decisions: First: The whim of the moment: Animals live this way. Aristotle says this is a "life fit for cattle" (N. Ethics 1. 5). Higher is the Second level: Reason is our guide: It is in reality aided by actual graces which God offers abundantly. But still, the guide is basically reason. We move, often step by step, to reach a decision based on reason, even though that reason is aided by actual graces. Third level: The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are the Guide: Here the Holy Spirit gives the answers ready made, without a step by step process. (NB the danger of self-deception here!). St. John of the Cross writes of this level (Ascent of Mt. Carmel 3. 2. 10): " God alone moves the powers of these souls... to those deeds which are suitable, according to the will and ordinance of God, and they cannot be moved to others... . Such were the actions of the most glorious Virgin, Our Lady, who, being elevated to this level from the beginning [of her life] never had the form of any creature impressed on her, nor was moved by such, but was always moved by the Holy Spirit." We think of her response at the annunciation, not to tell even the authorities or Joseph, but to be silent in humility. This was not contrary to reason, but above reason.
Today that Spirit acts through her, His Spouse, and so, de facto, His movements and the movements from her are the same. In this sense, a soul that is perfectly responsive almost becomes her, is almost annihilated in her, as St. Maximilian said.
b) Living in her presence: In what sense is she present? God is present everywhere, not by filling space, but by producing effects. Where He does this, He is present.
Her Presence through producing effects in the soul: Thanks to her glorification in the Assumption, she too operates in this mode. And she is constantly producing effects in that she is Mediatrix of all graces. There is also an affective presence: When two persons have strong love, even physical distance does not destroy this sort of presence. She has that love for us, we should return it, and in the measure in which we do so, this presence grows.
How can we develop an awareness of her presence? It is not possible that it be constant. Our weakness and our duties prevent that, but we can do much. Here are some means: In the method of conditioned reflexes we can develop, in time, the habit of saying some brief prayer or ejaculation each time we do some action that is often repeated, such as going up or down stairs, or in or out of a room. This is not the highest prayer, but it is a start.
Thinking of her doing the same things: especially if one does housework, that one can think of doing what she did, and doing it as part of the Father's plan. She looked on it that way. In the small talk method we do what two persons often do when together and yet occupied with some work. They exchange comments, small talk: what they are doing, how it is going, or other things that concern them. Again, this is not the highest prayer, but it is a means of contact.
(2) Spirit of Dependence: Even without a consecration, we depend on her for every grace, in the sense explained above. But if we make a total consecration and try to live it, there is much more:
(a) Prayer through her: There are two ways. In one, we speak to her, and then ask her to speak to her Son or to the Father for us. In the other, we speak directly to the Father, or to Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, or other Saints. But in doing so we are aware of her, and of the fact that all graces we obtain are those she has shared in winning for us on Calvary, and which she has helped to get now for us by her intercession.
How often should we pray in each of these two ways? No formula can be given. There should be some of each. There will be variations according to the Father's plans for each individual, that is , according to the providential diversity of graces.
(b) Giving her the right to dispose of all we have: This is to be taken very seriously. Yet, we must be careful not think of this as the whole of consecration. It is only a part, even though a very important part.
Material goods: We cannot put her name on our bank account, but we should resolve not to spend anything except in ways she would really want us to do. Here the response will be different for a priest from that for others living a life in marriage, or for a single person. The married one must not impose on his/her family an almost monastic standard. The unmarried or the priest could ask: Does she really want me to have more things than an ordinary married couple in this area would have?
Spiritual goods: We have these kinds of values: (a) Condign merit—the claim we get under the covenant to a reward. This is so personal by nature that it cannot be given to anyone else. (b) Congruous merit: this is such that we can spend it on others. We give her the final right to decide where to use it. (c) Satisfaction—all goods deeds are less than pleasant for our fallen nature, and so can be a means of satisfaction. (d) Impetration—this is the power of prayer based on the "ask and you shall receive" promise.—We give her the final right to say what to use these for. But we still may and should pray for parents, spouses, children etc. , towards whom we have obligations and duties. She recognizes these duties, and loves our dear ones even more than we do. So while asking her to use this for this for this particular one, we leave the final right up to her. Really, in this way we as it were pool our poor merits with her infinite resources, and so our dear once will obtain more.
To sum up: we give to her to dispose everything we have that is disposable.
For those who can, it is good at times to have a Mass offered for her intentions. Technically, we ask that it be said for the intention of the giver. For the priest must positively make the assignment of the Mass. But then we make our own intention that it is for whatever she wills. Priests who accept stipends must of course offer it for those intentions directly, without calling on her.
(c) Power of attorney: Some holy people have prayed for particular sufferings. But this is not the best. The goal is that our will should be perfectly aligned with the will of the Father. We do not know if it would please Him to send a particular suffering at a particular time. However, she knows what will please Him, specifically, on any given occasion. So we can give her a sort of power of attorney, so she can act for us, can make any "deal" in our name. We have ratified in advance. We can make such a grant once for life, and then can renew it informally, especially when things are difficult. It can be renewed informally, even just by saying interiorly: "Mother, please speak for me."
(3) Spirit of obedience: This is the most direct response to her Queenship. What does she want me to do? Of course we should pray for light, but we should not then wait, as it were, for a jab from heaven, and think that a command. No, we must work reasonably. Some things are entirely clear at the start:
(a) Legitimate commands: She surely want us to obey all of these, from any authority that has the right to command. Of course if a command is immoral, we must disobey.
(b) Duties of state in life: She definitely wants us to carry out faithfully all the duties of our state in life, which vary for each state. This is an absolute. St. Francis de Sales in his Introduction to a Devout Life, 1. 3 has very sound advice: "Tell me, is it suitable that bishops, like Carthusians, should want to pursue solitude? that married men should be no more concerned about their financial state than Capuchins? that a workman should spend whole days in the church like a religious? that a religious, on the other hand, should be exposed to all the cases and events that attend the needs of others, like a bishop? Would not this kind of devotion be ridiculous, disordered, and intolerable?" This whole book is extremely well-balanced and helpful. However, one must excuse the rather sugary language usual in his day, and the many comparisons to the most up to date science of his day, now mostly discarded. The theology and the common sense are outstanding. The same Saint's Treatise on the Love of God is most valuable as a sequel.
St. Francis de Sales also makes a remarkable comment in regard to duties of one's state. In his Epistle 217 (St. Francis de Sales, Letters of Spiritual Direction, Paulist, 1988, p. 104; cf. Epistle 241, ibid. pp. 156-57), to a married woman, he told her that her husband would be greatly pleased if he would see that as her devotion grew, she would become "more warm and affectionate toward him." Some Saints have felt that detachment (taught by St. Paul in 1 Cor 7. 29, not letting earthly things get a hold on one) required the lack of all feeling, e.g. , St. Augustine felt guilty because he wept after the death of his Mother (Confessions 9. 12), even though Our Lord Himself wept at the tomb of Lazarus, who was not even a relative, just a good friend (Jn 11. 35). Feelings in themselves are neither good nor bad: all depends on how we use them. To use them to further what we ought to do is not at all wrong, it can be positively good.
(c) Conformity to the will of God: She wants us to cultivate this. Really, if one could perfectly align his will with the will of God that would be complete perfection. But this cannot be had by reciting a prayer of acceptance, even with all sincerity. Why? First, we cannot foresee now all that His will may call for before the end of our lives, and so cannot fully conform. Second, somatic resonance needs to grow gradually, for such is the law of physical bodies. (About that resonance: since I am made of body and spirit, and these two are so fully bound together as to add up to one person, it follows that if I have a condition on one side, for normal running—not for mere survival of it—there needs to be a parallel condition on the other side. That parallel is called a resonance. When it falls on the bodily side, the most common case, it is called somatic, bodily. For example, faith is on the side of the spirit, but it needs a resonance in the body, which is probably biochemical, to function normally. So spiritual growth needs a gradual adjustment of this resonance, which, according to the law of growth of bodies, follows a step graph, with long plateaus, and small rises in between. Mortification or suffering of any type that affect the bodily side may put this resonance into a more fluid state, as it were, and make possible a large rise at such points, if we respond most generously at each point. Negative mortification is needed for this: just being nice to people does not have this kind of effect.
We distinguish two kinds of cases. In some, the will of God is already clear. Then we must actively will what He wills, not just be passive. Secondly, there are times when His will is not yet clear: then we try to be open, as it were having plasticity, ready to take whatever shape He may call for. This plasticity is gained only by much mortification, to tame the disorder of our natural drives, a disorder increased by all deliberate sins. (Cf. Mt 6. 21: "Where your treasure is, there is your heart also. Cf. also the heroic positive and active following the will of Our Father by Our Lady, as described above in speaking of her sufferings on Calvary).
(d) Reparation for sin: She wants us to make reparation. We would know this even without Fatima, but we notice specially that there she told us to: "Pray, pray much, and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls are lost because they have no one to sacrifice and intercede for them." How can this be? Some become hardened by repeated sin. So ordinary graces cannot get through to them. For the first thing a grace needs to do is to give the good idea of what God proposes. If one is deeply addicted to evil, he will be incapable of seeing this light, because the pulls of creatures (cf. again Mt 6. 21, "Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.") can get such a hold on a soul that grace cannot get the good thought to register (cf. 2 Cor 3. 5). Now if grace cannot do this, which is the first step, it cannot do the rest either. So such a soul must be lost, unless an extraordinary grace, comparable to a miracle, is given. When is such a grace given? We think it is when someone puts an extraordinary weight into the pan of the scales of the objective order, by mortification and humility that goes beyond what people in general will do.
(e) Sometimes we must pick between options: Besides the plasticity we mentioned, we try to reason out what to do. We try to think how she, or her Son, would act in the same situation, which is different from first century Palestine. Growth in love of God (which is the same as obedience to His will) and in humility and mortification make us open to His guidance.
We ask also in such cases: Is the proposed course in harmony with our state in life (please recall the quote from St. Francis de Sales above). If what seems to be an inspiration comes, we ask: Is this conducive to peace and gentleness of heart? If not, it is not likely to be from God.
Clearly, the amount of effort we put into solving each instance should be in proportion to the importance of the matter on hand. Large things or small things that are part of a long pattern deserve more effort.
Finally, if possible, it is a wonderful help to have a good spiritual director to help with decisions. With his help it is good to form a set of private policies: what devotions should I have each day? What mortifications (we mean self-imposed, for those sent by God are clear, we should lovingly accept, though we may still use ordinary means to remove difficulties , e.g. , take an aspirin for a headache. If it does not work, that is a providential mortification). Most people err by excess in mortification: either they do nothing, or too much for their current state. So a director is priceless for objectivity and wisdom.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, in his Spiritual Exercises provides helpful rules for discernment of spirits: how to tell if something is really a grace, or is from the devil, or from suggestion. Cf. our appendix below on discernment of spirits.
There is a grace called infused contemplation, which, according to many excellent theologians, is a normal part of the spiritual life. It comes at the end of the first of the three ways or stages in the spiritual life, namely, at the end of the Purgative Way. In it, a soul does not see any vision or hear any sounds, but seems to perceive the presence of God, even a sort of contact with God, although it is not basically in the sphere of feeling. There may or may not be feelings of warmth accompanying it. Now because of her surpassing union with God, if God is perceived infused contemplation, then, if He so wills, she can be perceived too. There are many cases on record of this. For further data cf. Our Father's Plan, chapter 22.
The central object and source of blessedness in heaven is of course God Himself. But the Sacred Humanity of Christ is also an immense source of blessedness, as also His Mother. Pope Pius XII wrote splendidly about this truth (Address to Italian Catholic Action Youth, Dec. 8, 1953. From The Pope Speaks, 1954, 1. p. 38. Internal quote is from Dante, Paradiso, 31. 130-35):" 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 !"
St. John of the Cross, a Doctor of the Church and one of the greatest of mystic theologians, who had had so many special favors himself, is very severe with persons who desire to be the recipients of visions and revelations. He never wearies of repeating that the proximate means of union with God in this life is the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. True growth consists in intensified love, which is founded on faith and hope. Now although St. John encourages everyone to aim at infused contemplation, even though relatively few attain it, he strongly reproves anyone who desires to be the recipient of a vision or revelation. They desire to see; faith holds on without seeing. St. Teresa of Avila, who herself had an abundance of visions, takes a similar stand. She admits that great profit can be had from such things when they are genuine and are received in the proper spirit. Yet she says (Interior Castle 6. 9): "I will only warn you that, when you learn or hear that God is granting souls these graces, you must never beg or desire Him to lead you by this road. Even if you think it is a very good one... there are certain reasons why such a course is not wise." She then goes on at length to explain her reasons: First, such a desire shows a lack of humility; second, one thereby leaves self open to "great peril because the devil has only to see a door left a bit ajar to enter"; third, the danger of auto-suggestion: "When a person has a great desire for something, he convinces himself that he is seeing or hearing what he desires." Fourth, it is presumption for one to want to choose his own path, as only the Lord knows which path is best for us. Fifth, very heavy trials usually go with these favors: could we be sure of being able to bear them? Sixth, "you may well find that the very thing from which you had expected gain will bring you loss." She then adds that there are also other reasons, and continues with some wholesome advice that one can become very holy without this sort of thing: "There are many holy people who have never known what it is to receive a favor of this sort, and there are others who receive such favors even though they are not holy." We think of the frightening words of Our Lord in Mt. 7. 22 -23. Speaking of the last day, He said: "Many will say to me on that day: "Lord , Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out devils in your name, and work many miracles in your name? And then I will tell them: I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of iniquity." St. Teresa adds: "It is true that to have these favors must be a very great help towards attaining a high degree of perfection in the virtues; but one who has attained the virtues at the cost of his own work has earned much more merit."
It is, then, a sad mistake to center one's spiritual life about recounting and hoping for special revelations. Yes, we do well to follow those that have been approved by the Church, such as Lourdes and Fatima. But even there, they should not be the center of our spiritual lives except in so far as they are an exhortation to what the Gospel already calls for. Thus the three requests of Fatima are all just repetitions of what general theology provides: 1)Penance—which in the Gospel sense, means moral reform and reparation for sin; 2)Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary—we saw above that this is merely the natural conclusion of learning what our Father's plan is, of His approach to us in which He has given her an all-pervading role; and 3)The Rosary, consisting mostly of lines from the Gospel, plus prayers composed by the Church.
Since there is today so great a number of alleged apparitions of Our Lady, and since so many become so attached to them as to almost center their spiritual lives about them, it is good to consider some principles about visions and revelations.
First, these things are definitely not part of the core of the spiritual life. St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor, is very hard on these things. He goes so far as to tell souls that if a vision comes, they should at first not accept, to hold off and consider its authenticity only if it comes again. The reason he gives is this: faith holds on without seeing proof; those who want visions want to see, not to believe without seeing (cf. Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Ages of he Spiritual Life II, 575-88 and Poulain, The Graces of Interior Prayer, 299-399).
We distinguish two kinds of actions by the local bishops of places of alleged apparitions: 1) a decision that it is or is not authentic. Since the Church herself has no providential protection in the area of private revelations, he could be in error. We are not obliged to believe him, or even the Pope himself in such a case. 2)an order to all not to go in pilgrimage to the place of the supposed visions. This is a different matter, it is an exercise of authority, which the local bishop does have. Therefore if there are violations of this order, and yet visions seem to continue, we maybe absolutely certain that the visions are false. Our Lady or the Saints will never appear to promote disobedience. Even if there seem to be benefits to the devotion of people, we must still obey. And we need to recall how demanding the Church is of proof for alleged miracles. At Lourdes, after thousands of seeming miracles, the Church has checked and approved only a little over 60 cases since the start of that shrine.
The objection will be raised: The Church was so slow in approving Fatima, and so people lost so many graces while waiting. We reply: They lost nothing at all. Visions are not like sacraments that produce their effect by their own power in those who do not place an obstacle. One of the most approved series of visions are those of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary. On one occasion, He had told her to do something, but her Superior did not approve. When He came again, she asked Him about this, and He replied: "Therefore not only do I desire that you should do what your Superior commands, but also that you should do nothing of all that I order without their consent. I love obedience, and without it no one can please me." (Autobiography of St. Margaret Mary §47). We can understand this: He Himself redeemed the world precisely by obedience (Cf. Rom 5:19). Without obedience His sacrifice would have been empty externalism, the kind God reproved in the ancient Jews in Isaiah 29:13: "This people honors me with their lips, but heir heart is far from me." LG §3 says "by His obedience He brought about redemption." So there is no grace to be had by disobeying. To wait will not entail any loss at all, rather, God's favor will be upon those who obey.
If the local bishop does not approve, it is not good to say: let us wait for Rome to speak. Normally Rome respects the local bishop, and is highly unlikely to reverse his decision. Even if Rome did reverse it, we would have no guarantee, for, as we said, the providential protection promised to the Church does not cover private revelations.
So let us examine some of the principles for discernment of spirits.
What kind of Spirit is at work when someone receives a vision, a revelation, or a more routine favor? To determine this is called the discernment of spirits. It is of great importance to find the right answer. It is evident that there can be three sources: good spirit, evil spirit, autosuggestion.
The Fathers of the Church asked a related question about the appearances of God in the Old Testament.
The Fathers thought it was always the Divine Logos, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, who appeared. Cf. Aloys Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition (John Knox. Atlanta 2d ed. 1975 I. p. 103) commenting on Justin Apology 1. 46: "In his view, the incarnation is merely the conclusion in an immense series of manifestations of the Logos, which had their beginning in the creation of the world." (But DS 800 defined: all works outside divine nature are common to all Three. )
Behind this view seems to be the idea that the Father was too transcendent to appear in the world, and so He needed the Logos as a bridge to mankind. Cf. Justin Martyr, Dialogue 127: "He is not moved nor can be contained by place or by the whole world, for He existed before the world was made. How then could He talk to anyone, or be seen by anyone, or appear on the smallest portion of the earth, when the people at Sinai were not able to look even on the glory of him [Moses] who as sent from him?" So the Mediator is the Logos. Question, Pathology I. p. 208 thinks, "Justin denies the substantial omnipresence of God." Not so. Quasten's translation of the Greek was poor at one point, where he said: "He is not moved or confined to a spot in the whole world". It should be as above instead.
Also, Quasten thinks, p. 209, that "Justin tends to subordinationism.... This is evident from Apology 2, 6: 'His Son who alone is properly called Son, the Logos, who alone was with him and was begotten before the works, when at first he created and arranged all things by him, is called Christ, in reference to his being anointed and God's ordering all things through him. '" This does not prove any subordination.—Justin is groping. He wants to say the Father is transcendent (arretos) but that He employs the Son as Mediator. But we need to carefully observe a point of theological method. We at times find two truths, which seem to clash, and even after checking, we see both are established. Then we must hold both, until we find how to reconcile them (cf. the case of the two sets of statements by the Fathers on the knowledge of Christ (in Wm. G. Most, The Consciousness of Christ), and on membership in the Church (In the appendix, Our Father's Plan). Justin did not find how to reconcile the truths. Nor did various other Fathers who spoke similarly.
Thus Origen has been both accused and acquitted of subordinationism: Quasten II. 77: "that he teaches subordinationism has been both affirmed and denied; St. Jerome does not hesitate to accuse him of doing so, while Gregory Thaumaturgos and St. Athanasius clear him of all suspicion. Modern authors like Régnon and Prat also acquit him."—There are two kinds of statements in Origen:
(a) Affirms divinity: In Hebr. Frg. 24, 359: "Thus Wisdom too, since it proceeds from God, is generated out of the divine substance itself, under the figure of a bodily outflow. Nevertheless, it, too, is thus called 'a sort of clean and pure outflow of omnipotent glory' (Wisd. 7, 25). Both these similes manifestly show the community of substance between Son and Father. For an outflow seems homoousios, i.e. , of one substance with the body of which it is the outflow or exhalation." (from Quasten, p, 78)
Discussion with Heraclides: "Origen said: We confess therefore two Gods?" (cited from Quasten II, p. 64)
(b) Seems to state subordination: On John 13. 25: "We say that the Saviour and the Holy Spirit are without comparison and are very much superior to all things that are made, but also that the Father is even more above them than they are themselves above creatures even the highest." (from Quasten II, p. 79).
Comment: Origen says the Savior and Holy Spirit are "very much superior to all things that are made... [and] above creatures"—which seems to imply they are not made and are not creatures. It only affirms the Father is higher—probably means transcendence—again, the problem of theological method with two kinds of statements.
Really the discussions of the Fathers missed a basic point, which is now a defined doctrine: All the workings of the Three Divine Persons outside the Divine Nature are common to all three (DS 501, 3814).
So we turn to reports of private revelations in later ages.
Causes of illusions: Poulain, Graces of Interior Prayer, p. 322, thinks that at least three fourths of the revelations given to those who have not reached high sanctity are illusions. And there are many cases known of illusions even in canonized saints. So St. Teresa of Avila is quite prudent in warning that if one hears God is giving some souls such graces, one should never ask or desire Him to give such things. She gives several reasons: 1) The desire shows a lack of humility; 2)one thereby leaves self open to "great danger, since the devil needs only to see a door left slightly open too enter"; 3)there is the danger of autosuggestion; she says that if one has a great desire for something, he she can easily persuade self that he/she is seeing or hearing what is desired. 4)It is presumptuous to want to choose one's own path: only the Lord knows what is best; 5)very heavy trials commonly go along with such favors; 6)it could even bring loss. She adds that many holy people have never had such a favor, while there are others who have had them and yet are not holy. "A person who gains the virtues at the cost of his own labor has earned much more merit." (Interior Castle. 6. 9).
St. John of Cross warns on accepting revelations. It is unfortunate to center our spiritual life about these—it may even weaken faith, by wanting to see, instead of believing. Cf. Ascent II. 11; III. 13, and Poulain, op. cit. , pp. 299-399; Garrigou-Lagrange, Three Ages of the Spiritual Life II. 575-88.
We think also of the words of Our Lord (Jn 20:29): "More blessed are they who have not seen and have believed."
Five causes of error on revelations:
(1)Faulty interpretation of visions by the recipient.
St. John of the Cross warns on this in Ascent II. 19. Thus St. Joan of Arc in prison had a revelation that she would be delivered by a great victory—it was her martyrdom, which she did not suspect. St. Mechtilde was asked by St. Gertrude to pray that she would get docility and patience. St. Mechtilde reported what she thought our Lord had said, namely, that the word patience comes from pax and scientia, peace and knowledge. But this is a false etymology. She would have been right to take the words to mean that patience had its source in peace and knowledge.—St. Gertrude reported that on Easter our Lord explained the word Alleluia—saying that all vowels are in the word except o, which stands for grief. But o can express pleasure as well as grief.—St. Peter himself (Acts 10:9ff) did not understand the vision of the linen sheet until getting to see Cornelius.—Jonah did not understand that Nineveh would be spared if it repented—St. Norbert claimed a revelation that the Antichrist would come in his own generation.—St. Vincent Ferrer spent the last 21 years of his life preaching that the end was at hand. He even brought back to life for 15 minutes a dead woman, who confirmed his prediction. But the end did not happen. Probably it was averted by wholesale conversion by the Saint's preaching.
Prophecies of punishment, and promises of special favors should be considered as conditional. E.g., the Scapular promise should not be taken to refer to mere physical wearing of the Scapular: it must be, as Pius XII said, the outward sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that is really lived. If it is used this way then even if the vision of St. Simon Stock might not be true, the promise will be fulfilled, as we explained earlier.
2. Visions of the life and death of Christ, or other historic scenes, must be understood to be approximate only. Thus some saw Jesus with three nails, some with four.
Catherine Emmerich thought Mary of Agreda took literally many pictures that should have been taken allegorically. This is true of visions of paradise, purgatory, or hell—the reality cannot be shown in any vision, so mere images are used, e.g. , in the Apocalypse.
Blessed Veronica of Binasco saw the whole life of Christ, and so did St. Frances of Rome and Catherine Emmerich. The Bollandists, Jesuit experts in studying the lives of the Saints, tell us there are many historical errors in these. Again, those of St. Mechtildis and St. Bridget disagree.
Pope John XXIII, ordered The Poem of the Man God put on the index, on Dec. 16, 1960. The Index is now abolished, but Cardinal Ratzinger in a letter of Jan 31, 1985 wrote:..."The Index of forbidden books keeps all of its moral authority and therefore the distribution and recommendation of the work is considered improper when its condemnation was not made lightly but with the most serious motivation of neutralizing the harm which such publication could inflict on the more unwary faithful." So the Pontifical Imprimatur claimed for it is bogus. The message of April 28, 1947 explains that the messages do not contradict Revelation 22.18: "with this work no addition was made to revelation, but only the gaps, brought about by natural causes and by supernatural will, were filled in." So the vision shows no understanding of Apocalyptic genre.
3. Human action may mingle with the divine action: St. Catherine Labouré foretold many events correctly, but failed on others. It is especially easy for this to happen with ideas that appeal to our own desires or fit with preconceived ideas. St. Colette thought St. Anne had married three times and had several daughters, so she thought St. Anne appeared to her with all this family. Benedict XIV (Heroic Virtue III. 14. p. 404) said: "The revelations of some holy women canonized by the Apostolic See whose saying and writings in rapture and derived from rapture are filled with errors."
St. Elizabeth of Schoenau had many revelations on historical subjects. Imprudently she begged her guardian angel to get more of this for her, especially on St. Ursula whose bones were just discovered. And she also told her community to pray urgently for 17 days for that. Yet the Bollandists said her visions are full of historical errors, even though she demanded they be published in her lifetime. The works of St. Hildegard contain many scientific errors, those prevalent in her day. Bl. Anna Maria Taigi predicted a great temporal triumph for the Church—but it did not come. She wrote on physics and medicine, with much error. St. Frances of Rome claims she saw in a vision that the sky was made of crystal—a belief common in her day. Mary of Agreda made the same error on a crystal sky. She thought the 6 days of creation were 24 hrs. each. She even said it was a sin not to believe her! So Pope Clement XIV, a Franciscan stopped the process of her beatification on account of her book. Even Dominican writers often reject the revelations of Alan de la Roche, though Alan said, "May I be accursed if I have departed from the way of truth."
Benedict XIV (On Heroic Virtue III. 53. #16) examines an ecstasy of 1377 of St. Catherine of Siena, in which the Blessed Virgin seems to deny the Immaculate Conception. Benedict quotes some authors who try to blame editors or directors. But it is very possibly her preconceived ideas—Dominican opposition to Immaculate Conception—that really caused the "vision".
4. A true revelation may later be altered involuntarily by the recipient. This happens especially with intellectual locutions which need to be translated into words. Again, God may seem to promise a cure without saying if it is total or partial, sudden or slow, or even physical or moral. Again if a revelation is received in an instant, but it takes long to write it all down. St. Bridget admits such a thing in her own case.
5. Secretaries may alter without intending to do so: The accuracy of the text is disputed in the works of Mary of Agreda, Catherine Emmerich, and Mary Lataste. It has been shown that 32 passages from the latter have been taken word for word from St. Thomas Summa.
Similarly, compilers sometimes modify them. The first edition of Catherine Emmerich had St. James the Elder present at the death of the Blessed Virgin. When it was seen that this was incompatible with Acts of Apostles, it was dropped from later editions.
Five Causes of False Revelations
1. Pure bad faith, fakery: Magdalen of the Cross was a Franciscan of Cordova, born in 1487, who entered a convent at age of 17. From the age of 5 the devil appeared to her as various Saints, led her to desire to be considered a saint. At 13 he said who he was, offered an agreement: he would spread her reputation for holiness, and give her at least 30 years of pleasures. She agreed, and it all came true—ecstasies, levitation, prophecies, simulated stigmata. At door of death she confessed. Exorcism was needed.
2. Over-active imagination: We said above that human faculties may mingle with the divine action. They may imagine a saint is near them. They may imagine intellectual locutions. Cf. St. John of Cross, Ascent II. 29. St. Teresa said (Interior Castle 6. 6) that if one has once had a real vision, they would recognize the deception.
Hallucinations can come from excess in abstinence, fasting, and vigils.
3. Illusion in thinking one remembers things that never happened: They may imagine they have had visions. Some invent stories and convince themselves—in good faith. Some relate trips to far lands where they have never been. The line between imagination and reality is dim in young children—something similar can happen later too. This is not rare. If a director finds his advice has little effect, there is reason for seeing illusion. Some make false charges in courts in this way.
4. Devil may give false visions or revelations. We saw the case of Magdalen of the Cross.
5. Predictions by falsifiers: Some make these at first for their own amusement, then find they have a tiger by the tail. St. Bonaventure (De profectu religiosorum III. 76) said he was fed up with such things, on the troubles of the Church and the end of the world. During the great Western Schism at end of 14th century, there were many holy mortified men who had false revelations, and even thought they would be the pope. At fifth Lateran Council in 1516 Leo X had to publish an order prohibiting preachers from giving public prophecies. There were many during the French Revolution, clear and in detail on the past, vague on the future.
In 19th century there was an epidemic of prophecy especially on "the great Pope and the great King" inspired by the 17th century commentary on the Apocalypse by Ven. Holzhauser. Pius IX in an Allocution of April 9, 1872 said: "I do not give much belief to prophecies, because those especially that have come recently do not deserve to be read."
What degree of certainty or probability is possible?
1. When God so wills, He can give full certainty to the recipient. We who are not the recipients can also be sure of revelations given to another, e.g. , the OT prophets, for they furnished certain signs of their mission. This can be done by miracles worked in a framework in which a tie is made between the miracle and the claim.
2. Beyond this area, probability is the most that is attainable. We need then to work with various signs. We should: (a) Get detailed information on the person to whom the revelation seems to have been made; and on what facts seem to have been revealed.
Often we must work by exclusion, i.e. , show that it comes not from the devil, nor from the human mind. But psychology still cannot give full replies on some things that seem supernormal operations of the human mind: hypnotism, somnambulism, telepathy, thought-reading, etc. For data on the uncertainties of psychology see Richard M. Restak, [Neurologist in Washington D. C. ] "See no Evil. The Neurological defense would blame violence on the damaged brain" in The Sciences, July/August 1992, pp. 16-21.
3. Inquiries to be made about the alleged recipient:
(1)If the person is canonized, the Church has already checked—but canonization does not guarantee the truth of any supposed revelation given to the Saint.
(2)If not canonized: (a) What are the natural qualities or defects, physical, intellectual, and moral. Is he sincere, cool-headed, of sound judgment, of perfect mental equilibrium. Or is his mind weakened by poor health, vigils, fasts etc.
(b) Degree of education of the recipient—what books he has read, what information he may have picked up from other more learned persons. Much care is needed. Some say that Mary of Agreda was an ignorant girl. But she could read, knew the Bible well, and Cardinal Gotti showed several of her revelations were borrowed from a 15th century book, The Raptures of Blessed Amadeus. And she admits the help of theologians. Yet she said, in exaggeration: "No human mind could have imagined this work" (III, # 789).
(c) What virtues does the person have? What was his general level before and after the alleged revelation? If a great advance in holiness is seen, and it seems to have come from the revelation, there is good probability for the revelations. We think of the Fatima children. But if the seer has stayed at the ordinary level of virtue, the visions come under some suspicion, for would God use extraordinary means to lead to a merely ordinary state of holiness? Exception: God might use an ordinary person to help others. The message of Fatima for example would have ample justification even if the children had not become holy: this message God wanted given to the world. And the three things asked for are theologically sound and called for independently of any revelation.
(d) We need to watch out for the work of Satan—he may really promote good things for a while, provided that in the long run he gains. The revelations of Necedah seemed to have good fruits, yet were false. Rosaries were said to change to gold. Similarly for Bayside. But disobedience showed them false. St. Margaret Mary was told by Our Lord: (Autobiography, § 57):" Listen, My Daughter, and do not lightly believe and trust every spirit, for Satan is angry and will try to deceive you. So do nothing without the approval of those who guide you. Being thus under the authority of obedience, his efforts against you will be in vain, for he has no power over the obedient."
Sometimes Satan urges people to immoderate penances, so that they will in time give up. He may make contemplatives desire the active life, or vice versa. Blessed Jordan of Saxony, second General of the Dominicans, contracted a high fever. He had a prior skilled in medicine who told him to sleep on a soft bed. But Satan appeared to Jordan in the night and rebuked his self-indulgence. Jordan gave into this two nights. But the third night Jordan saw that he should obey his doctor, and so did. Jordan had previously put himself under obedience to the doctor.
(e) Humility is a major key. Satan has the greatest horror of it. Cf. the above words of Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary.—Yet Satan can lead a person to false humility. Pride shows in contempt for others, in an independent spirit as to the Superior and the director, in obstinacy in opinions, in refusal to submit to examinations (cf. Teresa Neumann), in anger. It shows too in desiring to publish the graces the person thinks he has received—when it is not necessary. Humility leads to wanting to hide them, except in cases of real usefulness.
(f) Has the person claimed revelations before? Made predictions that were fulfilled? If there was no reason to suppose the failed predictions were conditional, then they will seem not of divine origin.
(g) Has the recipient suffered great trials before or after the revelation, such as sicknesses, contradictions, lack of success. Extraordinary graces are very likely to bring great trials, as St. Teresa of Avila remarked, (cited above), in Interior Castle 6. 9. It is specially likely that the recipient will encounter skepticism or hostility. Bl. Juliana of Liege was chosen by God to establish the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament. Visions on it began two years after her entering the novitiate at age 16 in 1208. Only 22 years later did she dare to submit her project to some learned theologians, who approved it, but her enemies got revenge by pillaging her convent. In 1256 the Bishop of Liege established the Feast in one parish in his diocese, but died the same year. The convent was again pillaged. She was calumniated, forced to leave the convent, wandered during the last 20 years of her life, and died at age 66 after fruitless work for 50 years. Finally Pope Urban IV established the feast a century after the start of the revelations.
Yet not always do such things happen. St. Catherine Labouré had early success with the Miraculous Medal.
(h) Has the recipient been fearful of deception, open to Superiors or Director, and never desired revelations? St. Teresa of Avila was told in a vision to found a reformed Carmelite house, but yet did nothing until she had consulted four advisors (Autobiography 32). Mary of Agreda is quite the opposite. St. Ignatius in his rules for first Week, 13, says Satan tries to keep the person from being open. St. Monica as St. Augustine reports desired revelations about his coming marriage—they were false (Confessions 6. 13). So if a revelation has been desired that alone makes it doubtful. This is especially so if answers of pure curiosity are desired or answers to scholastic questions. Mary of Agreda was imprudent here, and was encouraged in imprudence by her confessors.
(i) It is probably good to employ the testimony of expert psychologists as to ecstatic states etc. However, psychology is not so solid and exact a science that absolute trust should be placed in their results.
Further Points to be Checked
1. Do we have an entirely authentic text? Some things have been suppressed or corrected in some cases. There may also have been additions.
2. Is the teaching in full accord with the teachings of the Church and with the certain conclusions of history and of science? If free from all errors, this need not prove it is of divine origin. But also, since there can be mixtures in private revelations, one false teaching need not lead us to conclude that all points are false.
3. Is there a revelation of the vices and sins of others? This does not always prove a revelation is false, but calls for careful checking. Some Saints have had a knowledge of the secrets of hearts, which helped in reforming souls: S. Joseph of Cupertino, St Catherine of Siena, St. John Vianney. St. John of the Cross, in Ascent II. 26 warns that Satan at times will make false revelations of the sins of others. Further, sometimes seeming knowledge is only the result of imagination. The Secret of Melanie of La Salette has harsh accusations on clergy and religious in the period 1840 to 1865—historically untrue. It was the time of Pius IX, St. John Bosco, St. John Vianney.
4. Is the information useful for salvation of souls? If it is merely to satisfy curiosity it is unlikely to be of divine origin. Some seeming seers act like mediums, give information on births, marriages, legal processes, diseases, political events etc. God does not run an Inquiry Office. Some are very clever at observing and can work with little things. Seances often push furniture about and cause vibrations in musical instruments etc. God does not do these things. Fr. Thurston SJ found cases of what seem to be Poltergeists—spirits that are mischievous, not harmful, not divine. They were not devils, since they did not yield to exorcisms. If a revelation claims to solve a theological problem, it is suspect. Also suspect are revelations that merely give truisms.
A large abundance of revelations taken alone does not disprove. We have cases like this in St. Bridget, St. Gertrude, St. Frances of Rome, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Margaret Mary, St. Ignatius and others.
5. Is all in accord with the dignity and gravity of the Divine Majesty? Some alleged revelations descend into vulgar speech. If there is neurotic exaltation and crowds weeping over their sins as at revivals, it is at least suspect. Satan at times appears taking repulsive shapes. On the other hand, St. Frances of Rome once saw 6 devils in the form of 6 beautiful doves—when she saw through it, they changed to crows and tried to harm her. Satan at times takes on the appearance of Christ Himself.
6. Are there sentiments of peace of disquiet? St. Ignatius considers this sign important. The good Spirit may cause momentary disquiet, but then brings peace. It is the opposite with Satan. But the peace alone will not prove the words are divine.
7. Revelations to direct princes or clergy are suspect: Mary of Agreda kept up correspondence with Philip IV of Spain for 20 years. The King divided his sheets of paper into two columns so she could comment in the opposite column. But the comments are mostly commonplace, with general advice anyone could have given. She had no comments on the King's relaxed morality and his culpable carelessness on things for which he was responsible.
Rules of St. Ignatius
l. To sinners, the devil proposes pleasures to hold them; the good spirit stirs conscience with remorse for sins.
2. In souls that have sincerely returned to God, the devil causes sadness, torment of conscience. The good spirit gives courage, energy, good thoughts.
3. Spiritual consolations come from a good spirit: a) when they arouse fervor; b) when they cause tears that are a true expression of interior sorrow and love; c) when they increase faith, hope, love, and bring quiet and peace.
4. As to spiritual desolation or inclination of soul to lower things, when these come we must not make any change as to good resolutions previously formed—hence we see the value of a private rule; We should take advantage of such things to grow in fervor, and rely on divine help, even though it is not felt. We must be patient. We should realize that desolation may be punishment for luke-warmness.
5. In time of consolation gather strength for time of desolation.
6. The devil is weak in the face of resistance, but fiery and cruel to those who yield. He tries to keep the victim from disclosing things to the spiritual director. He attacks the person at his weakest point: so check on that in examination of conscience.
Comments: 1. Both aridity and consolation can be good or bad. God often sends consolations at the second conversion, to help a soul break with things of world. But this should not continue, or one may love the consolations of God rather than the God of consolations as St. Francis de Sales said, Introduction 4. 13, St. John of the Cross, in Ascent 3. 39. 1 compares consolations to toys. He says if a baby picks up a sharp knife, we do not take it away from him, but instead, dangle a toy before him, so he will drop the knife. God uses consolations this way, to detach souls from this world. Satan may tempt a soul that is having consolations to spiritual pride, to thinking it is a Saint. Or in dryness he may tempt to pride again, to make the soul say: I am a strong soul, I do not need consolations.
Further, aridity may come from the person's fault, or merely from sluggish bodily dispositions. And some by temperament are more inclined to emotion than others—cf. St. Augustine who in his Confessions 9. 4, tells his emotional state after his conversion when he recited Psalm 4.
Yet, God has myriad ways to lead souls to Himself. So although some authors, e.g. , Garrigou-Lagrange, think that infused contemplation is a necessary feature of the growth of a soul, yet, at least the sweet forms of contemplation, seem not necessary. Here are some statements from St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Francis de Sales, which seem to imply that aridity is the more normal state for many souls:
St. Therese of Lisieux, Autobiography (Cap 13, p. 196, Kenedy edition): "Do not think that I am overwhelmed with consolations. Far from it! My joy consists in being deprived of all joy here on earth. Jesus does not guide me openly: I neither see nor hear Him."
St. Therese of Lisieux, Poem: "I know that at Nazareth, Virgin full of graces/ You lived in great poverty, not wishing anything more; No raptures, no miracles, no ecstasies/ embellished your life, O Queen of the elect. / The number of little ones is very great upon the earth. / They can, without trembling, lift up their eyes to you. /It pleases you to walk among the common way, / Incomparable Mother, to guide them to the heavens."
St. Francis de Sales, Letter 764 to St. Jane de Chantal: "It is the height of holy disinterestedness to be content with naked, dry, and insensible acts carried out by the superior will alone. You have expressed your suffering well to me and there is nothing to do to remedy it but what you are doing: affirming to our Lord, sometimes aloud and sometimes in song, that you even will to live and to eat as the dead do, without taste, feeling or knowledge. In the end, the Savior wants us to be His so perfectly that nothing else remains for us, and to abandon ourselves entirely to the mercy of His providence without reservation."
2. For certain, it is not good to center one's spiritual life around apparitions especially those had by others. Growth in holiness consists essentially in the alignment of our will with the will of God. Somatic resonance develops gradually, and hence such progress is necessarily gradual, except in instances of great strain, when if one really does accept the will of God heartily, there can be a large advance, instead of the usual small advances. And we should remember, the divine presence in the tabernacle is beyond doubt real. And the Mass is greater than any alleged apparition. In this connection we recall too the strong words of St. John of the Cross saying that to wish to see is to go in the direction opposite to faith: "Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed".
3. We might sum up characteristics thus: 1)Signs of the spirit of God: fits with teaching of Church; serious; gives light to the soul, docility, discretion: no hurriedness or exaggerations; humble thoughts; confidence in God, rightness of intention, patience in suffering, self-denial, sincerity and simplicity in conduct, no attachments not even to the gifts, great desire to imitate Christ in all things (a very strong sign), gentleness, kindness; 2)Signs of the evil spirit: (the opposite of the above—spirit of falseness or lie, suggestion of useless things, curious things, impertinent things, darkness, restlessness in the soul, a bold, obstinate spirit, many indiscretions, pride, lack of hope, disobedience, vanity, self-satisfaction, impatience, rebellion of the passions, hypocrisy, pretense, attachment to earthly things, forgetfulness of Christ and of imitating him, a false charity including bitter zeal, indiscretion.
Supplement: Appearances compared to revelation
Either one, revelation or vision, may come without the other. There are three kinds of appearances:
1)Sensory or corporeal: The senses perceive a real object which is normally invisible. Need not be a real human body that is seen—may be a sensory or luminous form, or God or His agent may produce that image on the eyes of the one who sees the vision.
Note on Eucharistic visions: St. Thomas III. 76. 8 holds that Jesus does not appear in visible form in His real body since the Ascension. The appearances may come: (a) by His working on the exterior senses (usually when only one person sees the vision), so that there is nothing there in external reality. (b) There is something in external reality, but in the case of the Eucharist, there is a change in the figure, color etc. of the accidents of the Real Presence. (This is usual when more than one person sees or when the apparition continues and even is exhibited in a shrine).—St. Teresa of Avila, Relations XV (Peers edition I. pp. 341-42) seems to agree with St. Thomas: "From some of the things He said to me, I learned that, since ascending into the heavens, He had never come down to earth again to communicate Himself to anyone, except in the Most Holy Sacrament."—But others thinks there is a real presence, especially when He appears in proximity to the Sacred Host (cf. also the words cited above for St. Teresa, "except in the Most Holy Sacrament". When elsewhere, some think it is merely moral presence—others think there is a physical presence, and cite the case of St. Anthony kissing the Infant Jesus—a scene witnessed by the owner of the house where it happened: Cf. Poulain, Graces of Interior Prayer, pp. 315-16. On visions in general, cf. Poulain, pp. 301-02, and Royo Marin, Teología de la Perfección Cristiana, pp. 815-19, A. Tanquerey, The Spiritual Life, pp. 701-02.
The same principles would apply to visions of the Blessed Virgin—and we note the varied images in which she appears.
2)Imaginative visions: produced in the imagination by God or angels or Saints, during sleep or when awake. Often an intellectual vision accompanies, which explains the meaning.—These can be produced in three ways: (1)Awakening of images already present in memory, (2) Supernatural combination of such images held in memory, (3) Newly infused images.—the devil can work in the first two ways , not in the third.
Such visions may come in sleep or while awake. May deal with things past or future as well as present. Cf. the case of the dreams of Joseph the patriarch. They may also be symbolic.
3)Intellectual visions: There is no sensory image present in these, the effect is directly supernatural on the intellect. There will be more clarity and force than what one would have from the natural powers. May come by way of ideas already acquired but coordinated or modified by God, or through infused ideas. The visions may be obscure , manifesting only the presence of the object, or they may be clear.
These intellectual visions may last a long time, days, weeks, even years. Cf. St. Teresa, Interior Castle 6. 8. 3. The effects may include profound understanding or love. They are apt to bring absolute certitude that they come from God: cf. St. Teresa, Life, 27. 5.
Combinations: In the Damascus road instance, Paul saw with his eyes a sensory vision, with his imagination he saw Ananias coming to him, in his mind he understood God's will.
Three kinds of revelations:
(Preliminary: distinguish public, found in Scripture and Tradition, completed when last Apostle died and NT was finished. Cf. Dei Verbum § 4—and private revelations: all else).
1)Auricular: A sound is produced in the air by a good or evil spirit. They may seem to come from a vision.
2)Imaginary: This does not mean false, but rather, a locution not perceived by the ears but by the power of image making. May be received while asleep or awake, and may come from God or a good or bad angel. By the fruits produced in the soul—if one examines all fruits, not just some—one can see if the source is good or bad. Satan can afford to produce some seeming good fruits, if in the long run he can get evil results, such as disobedience to the Church over alleged visions, or pride, or may suggest great projects, beyond the ability of the soul, which will later give up all effort.
3)Intellectual: Impressed directly on the mind, with no images received in senses or imagination. There are three classes, according to St. John of the Cross—whom others follow (Ascent of Mt. Carmel II. 28-31): successive, formal, substantial.
1)Successive: These are formed by the soul, reasoning, with much facility, especially during meditation. They are the combined effect of the soul and the Holy Spirit. Illusion and error are quite possible here. St. John of Cross in II. 39. 4 says sometimes pure heresy can come in, created by the imagination of the soul or by the devil.
2)Formal: These seem to come from outside, whereas the successive seem to originate within the soul, even though the Holy Spirit may have a part in producing them. They, unlike the successive, may come even when one is distracted: thus the exterior origin is known. Illusion by the devil is possible here.
Substantial: Same as formal, but they produce in the soul the effects they signify, e.g. , if God says to the soul: be quiet, be humble. Royo Marin, op. cit, p. 821 , thinks no illusion is possible in such a case.
Note: 1)These locutions and visions belong to the category of gratiae gratis datae or charismatic, and per se are not necessary for spiritual growth of the soul, even though per accidens they may aid it. They do not even prove a soul is in the state of grace: cf. Mt 7. 22-23. But one should not desire these—danger of self-deception or devilish deception. St. Teresa of Avila warns (Interior Castle 6. 9), cited above, warns of dangers.
(c) Copyright by William G. Most, 1994
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