Mothers Cant Be Everywhere, but God Is : A Liberating Look at Motherhood


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In much the same way the mother of a king is nearer to him than the most able of his lawyers. However, under a certain respect—secundum quid, as theologians say—sanctifying grace and the beatific vision are more perfect than the divine maternity. As regards sanctifying grace, it makes its bearer holy in the formal sense of the term, whereas the divine maternity, being only a relation to the Word made flesh, does not sanctify in that way.

It is evident that the hypostatic union of the two natures in Christ, considered absolutely, surpasses the beatific vision, even though the latter includes a perfection in the order of knowledge not found in the former. In a similar way, and with all due reservations, the divine maternity, if considered absolutely or simpliciter, surpasses the plenitude of grace and glory, even though this latter is more perfect in a secondary way, or secundum quid.

For the divine maternity, being but a real relation to the Incarnate Word, is not enough of itself to sanctify Mary. But it called out for, or demanded, the fullness of grace which was granted her to raise her to the level of her singular mission. She could not have been predestined to be any other kind of mother to the Saviour than a worthy one.


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All Mariology is dominated by it just as all Christology is dominated by the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. Since Mary pertains by the term of her maternity to the hypostatic order, it follows that she is higher than the angels; higher also than the priesthood, which participates in that of Christ. But none the less, her dignity is higher than that of the priest and of the bishop, since it is of the hypostatic order.

The Victim offered on the Cross, and whom the priest offers on the altar, was given us by Mary. The Principal Offerer of our Masses was given us by her. She was more closely associated with Him at the foot of the Cross than anyone else—more than even the stigmatics and the martyrs. Thus, had Mary received the priestly ordination but it did not form part of her mission , she would have received something less than what is implied in her title of Mother of God.

Mary was chosen to be not the minister of the Saviour but His associate and helper in the work of redemption. It was by way of preparation for the divine maternity that Mary was the Immaculate Conception, preserved from the stain of original sin by the future merits of her Son. He redeemed her as perfectly as was possible; not by healing her, but by preserving her from the original stain before it touched her soul for even an instant. It was because of her maternity that Mary received the initial fullness of grace which ceased not to increase till it reached its consummated plenitude.

And because of the same maternity she was exempt from all personal fault, even venial—and from all imperfection, for she never failed in promptitude to obey the divine inspirations even when they came to her by way of simple counsels. She contributed therefore to His knowledge: not, of course, to His beatific or infused knowledge, but to the progressive formation of His acquired knowledge, which knowledge lit up the acquired prudence in accordance with which He performed acts proportioned to His age during His infancy and hidden life.

In this way the Word made flesh was subject to Mary in most profound sentiments of respect and love. How, then, could we fail to have the same sentiments in regard to the Mother of Our God? Grignon de Montfort says ch. It is she who nourished and supported Him, who brought Him up and then sacrificed Him for us.

Such is the first reason for the cult of hyperdulia which we owe her. It explains why the voice of tradition, and especially the Council of Ephesus and Constantinople, insisted, before everything else concerning Mary, on the fact that she was the Mother of God, thereby affirming afresh against Nestorianism that Jesus was God. It is quite clear to them that had we, for our part, been in a position to do so, we should have given our mother every gift at our disposal. That is why St. Thomas is content to state quite simply Ilia, q.

It prepares us to receive eternal life as a heritage and as a reward of the merits of which it is itself the principle. It is even the germ of eternal life, the semen gloriae as Tradition terms it, since by it we are disposed in advance for the face to face vision and the beatific love of God. Habitual grace is received into the very essence of the soul as a supernatural graft which elevates and deifies its vitality.

From it there flows into the faculties the infused virtues, theological and moral, and the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, all of which supernatural organism constitutes a sort of second nature of such a kind as to enable us to perform con-naturally the supernatural and meritorious acts of the infused virtues and the seven gifts. We have, too, by habitual grace the Blessed Trinity dwelling within us as in a temple where They are known and loved, even as it were experimentally.

This new life of grace, virtues and gifts, is none other than eternal life begun on earth, since habitual grace and charity will outlive the passage of time. Grace—call it, if you will, a participation in the divine nature—was no less gratuitous for the angels than for us. Augustine says De Civ. Dei, XII, c. The angels, and man also, could have been created in a purely natural condition, lacking the divine graft whence issues a new life. It is a participation in the divine nature or in the inner life of God, which makes the soul to enter into the kingdom of God, a kingdom far surpassing all the kingdoms of nature—mineral, vegetable, animal, human, and even angelic.

So elevated is grace that St. Mary, of course, had received from the Most High natural gifts of body and soul in wonderful perfection.

Judged even from the natural level, the soul of Jesus united in itself all that there is of beauty and nobility in the souls of the great poets and artists, of men of genius and of men of generosity. In an analogous way the soul of Mary was a divine masterpiece because of the natural perfection of her intelligence and will and sensibility. There is no shadow of doubt that she was more gifted than anyone who has ever struck us as remarkable for penetration and sureness of mind, for strength of will, for equilibrium or harmony of higher and lower faculties. Since she had been preserved from original sin and its baneful effects, concupiscence and darkness of understanding, her body did not weigh down her mind but rather served it.

Albert the Great loves to recall, the Fathers of the Church say that Mary, viewed even naturally, had the grace of Rebecca, the beauty of Rachel, and the gentle majesty of Esther. They add that her chaste beauty never held the gaze for its own sake alone, but always lifted souls up to God.

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The more perfect these gifts of nature in Mary, the more elevated they make her grace appear, for it surpasses them immeasurably. When speaking of fullness of grace it is well to note that it exists in three different degrees in Our Lord, in Mary, and in the just. Thomas explains this a number of times. There is, first of all, the absolute fullness of grace which is peculiar to Jesus, the Saviour of mankind.

Taking into consideration only the ordinary power of God, there can be no greater grace than this. It is the eminent and inexhaustible source of all the grace which all men have received since the Fall, or will receive till the end of time. It is the source also of the beatitude of the elect, for Jesus has merited all the effects of our predestination. There is finally the fullness of sufficiency which is common to all the just and which makes them capable of performing those meritorious acts—they normally become more perfect in the course of years—which lead them to eternal life.

These three fullnesses have been well compared to an inexhaustible spring, to the stream or river which flows from it, and to the different canals fed by the river, which irrigate and make fertile the whole region they traverse—that is to say, the whole Church, universal in time and space. And then finally it rises once more to God, the Ocean of peace, in the form of merits, prayers, and sacrifices.

To continue the image: the fullness of the spring has not increased; that of the river, on the contrary, which flows from it has increased. Or, to speak in plain terms, the absolute fullness of Our Saviour knew no increase, for it was sovereignly perfect from the first instant of His conception by reason of the personal union with the Word. For that reason theologians usually speak of, 1st—her initial fullness or plenitude; 2nd—the fullness of her second sanctification at the instant of the conception of the Saviour; 3rd—the final fullness at the instant of her entry into glory , its extent, and its superabundance.

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The initial fullness of grace in Mary presents two aspects. One is negative, at least in its formulation: her preservation from original sin. The other is positive: her conception, absolutely pure and holy by reason of the perfection of her initial sanctifying grace in which were rooted the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. This definition contains three especially important points: 1st—It affirms that the Blessed Virgin was preserved from all stain of original sin from the first instant of her conception.

The conception meant is that known as passive or consummated—that in which her soul was created and united to her body—for it is then only that one can speak of a human person, whereas the definition bears on a privilege granted to the person of Mary.


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The definition states also that the Immaculate Conception is a special privilege and an altogether singular grace, the work of divine omnipotence. What are we to understand by original sin from which Mary has been preserved? The Church has not defined its intrinsic nature, but she has taught us something about it by telling us its effects: the divine hatred or malediction, a stain on the soul, a state of non-justice or spiritual death, servitude under the empire of Satan, subjection to the law of concupiscence, subjection to suffering and to bodily death in so far as they are the penalty of the common sin.

It follows therefore that Mary was not preserved free from every stain of original sin otherwise than by receiving sanctifying grace into her soul from the first instant of her conception. Thus she was conceived in that state of justice and holiness which is the effect of the divine friendship as opposed to the divine malediction, and in consequence she was withdrawn from the slavery of the devil and subjection to the law of concupiscence.

She was withdrawn too from subjection to the law of suffering and death, considered as penalties of the sin of our nature, 41 even though both Jesus and Mary knew suffering and death in so far as they are consequences of our nature in came passibili and endured them for our salvation. Hence the opinion held by some 13th-century theologians—that Mary was immaculate in the sense of not needing to be redeemed, and that her first grace was independent of the future merits of her Son—may no longer be admitted.

According to the Bull Ineffabilis Deus, Mary was redeemed by the merits of her Son in a most perfect way, by a redemption which did not free her from a stain already contracted, but which preserved her from contracting one. Even in human affairs we look on one as more a saviour if he wards off a blow than if he merely heals the wound it inflicts. The idea of a preservative redemption reminds us that Mary, being a child of Adam and proceeding from him by way of natural generation, should have incurred the hereditary taint, and would have incurred it in fact had not God decided from all eternity to grant her the unique privilege of an immaculate conception in dependence on the future merits of her Son.

Jesus was not redeemed by the merits of another, not even by His own.

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He was preserved from original sin and from all sin for two reasons: first because of the personal or hypostatic union of His humanity to the Word in the very instant in which His sacred soul was created, since it could not be that sin should ever be attributed to the Word made flesh; secondly, since His conception was virginal and due to the operation of the Holy Ghost, so that Jesus did not descend from Adam by way of natural generation. The privilege of the Immaculate Conception is revealed as it were implicitly or confusedly in the book of Genesis in the words spoken by God to the serpent, and thereby to Satan Gen.

However there is no essential difference of meaning between the two readings since the woman is to be associated with the victory of Him Who will be the great representative of her posterity in their conflict with Satan throughout the ages. Taken by themselves these words are certainly not sufficient to prove that the Immaculate Conception is revealed.

But the Fathers of the Church, in their comparison of Eve and Mary, have seen in them an allusion to it, and it is on that account that the text is cited by Pius IX. To the naturalist exegete the text means no more than the instinctive revulsion man experiences towards the serpent.

Mothers Cant Be Everywhere, but God Is : A Liberating Look at Motherhood Mothers Cant Be Everywhere, but God Is : A Liberating Look at Motherhood
Mothers Cant Be Everywhere, but God Is : A Liberating Look at Motherhood Mothers Cant Be Everywhere, but God Is : A Liberating Look at Motherhood
Mothers Cant Be Everywhere, but God Is : A Liberating Look at Motherhood Mothers Cant Be Everywhere, but God Is : A Liberating Look at Motherhood
Mothers Cant Be Everywhere, but God Is : A Liberating Look at Motherhood Mothers Cant Be Everywhere, but God Is : A Liberating Look at Motherhood
Mothers Cant Be Everywhere, but God Is : A Liberating Look at Motherhood Mothers Cant Be Everywhere, but God Is : A Liberating Look at Motherhood
Mothers Cant Be Everywhere, but God Is : A Liberating Look at Motherhood Mothers Cant Be Everywhere, but God Is : A Liberating Look at Motherhood

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