Skip to main content

Full text of "The immaculate conception of the Mother of God : an exposition"

See other formats















1 Tota pulchra es, et macula non est in te." 

Cantic. iv. 7. 





I. The Office and Dignity of the Mother of God i 

n. How the Fathers speak of the Dignity of the Mother of God, 14 

m. The Law of Preparation, 27 

IV. The Principle of Exception from Law, 37 

V. The Law of Gradation in Perfection ; and the Law of the 

Accumulation of Excellence, 45 

VI. In what sense are we to understand the Mystery of the Im- 
maculate Conception 58 

! VII. The Eternal Counsel of God , ..63 

Vin. The Fall of the Angels, 69 

IX. Original Sin and its effects, 83 

X. The Fall of Man 94 

XI. Joachim and Anna. 105 

XII. The Moment of the Immaculate Conception, .. .. in 

XIII. The Voice of the Fathers, 116 

XIV. Mahomet and Martin Luther on the Immaculate Conception, 133 
XV. The Voice of the Divines, .. .. 141 

XVI. The Voice of the Liturgy and the Voice of the Faithful, . . 164 

XVII. The Voice of the Episcopacy, 179 

XVIII. The Voice of the Holy See, 188 

XIX. Conclusion,.. 200 






THE multitude that saw Jesus nailed to His 
Cross could have no doubts respecting His 
human nature. They saw His Mother standing 
by in sore distress, and had no doubts but 
that Jesus was her Son. Of what then were 
men ignorant? Alas! of everything. For 
they knew not that Jesus was God, and that 
Mary was the Mother of God. What the 
Apostles then had to prove, before they could 
make a Christian, was, that Jesus, whom Pontius 
Pilate crucified, was both the Son of Mary and 
the Son of God. And thus, when they began 
to preach, they had to tell how Mary was 
always a virgin, and how, in her state of virgin- 
ity, an angel came and greeted her from heaven. 
They had to tell the whole history about her 
at full length, which is recorded briefly in the 
Sacred Scriptures. They told how, in her re- 


tirement, the Archangel Gabriel came to her, 
and said : Hail, full of grace, the Lord is ivith 
thee, blessed art 'thou amongst women." And 
how Mary was troubled, and thought within 
herself about the meaning of this salutation. 
And how the angel said : " Fear not, Mary, for 
thou hast found grace with God : behold thou 
shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring 
forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name 
Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called 
the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God 
shall give unto Him the throne of David, His 
Father; and He shall reign in the house of 
Jacob for ever. And of His kingdom there 
shall be no end" But Mary, pure as the 
Angel, and solicitous for that virginity which 
she had vowed and given unto God, asks of the 
heavenly messenger : " How shall this be done, 
for I know not man ? " And Gabriel answered 
her : " The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, 
and the power of the Most High shall over- 
shadow thee. And therefore, also, the Holy, 
which shall be born of thee, shall be called the 
Son of God." And Mary bowed herself clown 
most meekly to the will of God, and said : 
te Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done 
to me according to thy word." 

Such was the wonderful beginning of the 
Gospel of truth. And as Mary introduced 
Jesus into the world, so the preaching of Mary 
introduced the preaching of Jesus. 

Then the Apostles went onto tell the wonders 
of His nativity. How, whilst Mary was in the 
stable, the angels came out from heaven, and 
sang of the birth of the Saviour of the world ; 


they sang " glory to God, and peace to men of 
good will." And wherever the Apostles came to 
plant the Church, they had to begin this history 
again. And thus Jesus and Mary came together 
into the hearts of the faithful. Thus the love 
of Jesus and of Mary grew together in the 
Church. Indeed, it was impossible to separate 
them, without destroying faith in Jesus Himself. 
For if you separate Mary from Jesus, you deny 
that He is man, and so you deny that He is the 
Man-God. And if you deny that Mary is the 
Mother of God, you separate Jesus from Him- 
self ; you separate His divinity from His 
humanity, and thus you deny that He is the 

But whilst the Apostles were preaching Jesus 
and Mary, Mary herself abode with John, that 
virgin disciple of divine love to whom Jesus had 
confided her as a mother to a son. With him 
she dwelt in the body ; but with her soiil, she 
was ever ascending unto Heaven, where her 
Son and God abode. No mother besides her 
had ever loved her child and her God in one 
person. And in the order of nature, as well as 
in the order of grace, this world was a blank to 
her without Him. In this state of trial, she 
perfected her graces to the last degree of divine 
desire, breathed out her earthly life in one last 
act of divinest union with her beloved one, 
and was assumed by Him into the everlasting 
vision of His glory. 

Scarcely had the other Apostles gone to their 
reward, and St. John was still remaining on 
earth, when there grew a sect into power, that 
aimed a deadly stroke at the union of Jesus with 


Mary. The Ebionites denied that Mary had 
conceived Jesus of the Holy Ghost in the glory 
of her virginity, and made him but the son of 
Joseph. Therefore it was that St. John was 
induced to write his Gospel, that he might prove 
more fully than the other Evangelists, that it 
was the Eternal Word Himself who was made 
flesh of Mary. And the traditions of St. John 
were still further recorded by His disciples. 
Thus St. IrenaBus, the disciple of one of those 
apostolic men whom St. John himself had train- 
ed, shews, in what he has written against the 
same impious sect, that Jesus was descended 
from Adam through Mary, and that, as through 
the disobedience of that one man, sin had come, 
and death had prevailed over all men, so 
through the obedience of one, justice was intro- 
duced, and brought the fruits of life to all men. 
And, continues St. IrenaBus, " as the first-formed 
Adam had his substance from the uncultivated 
earth, whilst it was yet virgin ; for it had not 
rained on the earth as yet, and mankind had 
not tilled it ; and as he was formed by the hand 
of God, that is by the Word, for all things ivere 
made by Him; so the same Word was born of 
Mary, still a virgin, and re-established Adam 
in Himself. If indeed, the first Adam, had 
had a man for his father, and had been 
born of the generation of man, then these 
heretics might say, that Jesus was the Son 
of Joseph. But if the first man was taken 
from the earth, and formed by the Word of 
God, it was necessary for that very Word, 
when He re-established Adam in Himself, to 
have His generation in the likeness of that of 


Adam. Why, then, instead of taking earth 
;iLr;iin, did God form His body from Mary? 
It was that the new formation might not bo 
different from that which was to be saved, but 
the very same re-established, with a due keep- 
ing of its likeness."* 

Thus, this disciple of St. John's disciple shews 
that the Son of God, who made Adam, would 
not be born into this world in a worse condition 
than Adam. That as Adam was made of virgin 
earth, so Christ would be made of a Virgin. 
And that, if He was born of the Virgin Mary, 
instead of being made of new earth, as Adam 
was ; He did so, that He might redeem the race 
of Adam in the flesh of Adam. Thus Mary, 
and Mary in her virginity, as the TMother of 
Jesus, was shewn to be an essential element in 
the mystery of redemption. 

But soon there rose up another heresy, and 
widely it spread itself, and, like the former, it 
sought to separate Jesus from Mary, and so to 
destroy Jesus, but in another way. The Gnos- 
tics taught that Christ took not real flesh from 
Mary, but that He had only received an appear- 
ance of flesh. And St. Ignatius, the disciple of 
St. Peter, tells us that " they abstain from the 
Eucharist, and the public offices of the Church, 
because they confess not the Eucharist to be 
the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ."f Thus, 
they denied that the body of Our Lord was in 
the Eucharist, because they did not believe that 
He had ever taken a body from Mary. And 

* St Tren. Adv. Hceres. L. 3. c. 21. 
t St. Ignat. Ep. ad Smyrn. 


thus, they could not separate Jesus from Mary 
without destroying the Most Holy Sacrament as 
well as the whole mystery of redemption. 
Hence St. Ignatius in his Epistles, which in 
the early Church were read along with the 
Scriptures, has continually to defend Mary as 
the true Mother of Our Lord and Saviour. He 
puts Mary forward as the defence of the mys- 
tery of Jesus. And he says, that the virginity 
and maternity of Mary was one of the mysteries 
which was the most spoken of throughout the 
world. And St. Irenseus, in repelling the same 
impiety, goes yet more deeply into the subject 
of the Blessed Virgin, and shews how, as Jesus 
was the counterpart of Adam, so Mary was the 
counterpart of Eve. And that, as the mother 
of the true Adam, she had become truly the 
Mother of all the living. Thus did the disci- 
ples of the Apostles hold up the sound doctrine 
respecting Mary, as a shield against each suc- 
cessive heresy that assailed either the mystery 
of Jesus, or the mystery of human redemption 
through Jesus. Can we fail then to see, how 
the love of Mary grew and deepened through- 
out the Church along with the love of Jesus ? 

It is impossible to think rightly concerning 
Mary without thinking rightly of all divine 
mysteries. Thus if we confess that Mary had 
God for her Son, we overthrow the great and 
impious sect of the Arians. And if we confess 
that the divinity descended upon her and over- 
shadowed her, we overthrow the heresy of the 
Macedonians. But after them rose up Nesto- 
rius. And he denied that when Jesus was con- 
ceived of Mary, the nature of man was united 


in one person with the nature gf God. And it 
was found that this blasphemy against Jesus 
could only be effectually repelled by solemnly 
proclaiming the Blessed Virgin to be the Mother 
of God. It was in that city of Ephesus, where 
he had dwelt with John, in that favoured city 
still breathing its remembrances of Mary, that 
the great Council assembled which by its pro- 
claiming her dignity as the Mother of God, 
gave the death-stroke at once both to the 
Nestorians and the , Arians. And when the 
faithful people of Mary's own city had heard 
but the first sounds which informed them of 
that decree, they broke out into a joy so raptur- 
ous and unbounded, and gave expressions to it 
in so many public acts of gratitude as but few 
scenes in history can equal. It was in the 
preordained order of providence that first the 
mysteries of God should be established in the 
Creed, and then the prerogatives of Mary. 
Thus the first great Council established the 
divinity of Jesus ; the second affirmed the 
divinity of the Holy Ghost ; the third pro- 
claimed Mary to be the Mother of God. And 
in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and all henceforward, 
her privileges are ever more arid more exalted 
together with the glories of her Blessed Son. 

But now a sect began to appear in Arabia, 
which took an opposite direction, whilst it 
separated Mary from Jesus. The Collyridians 
taught that Mary herself was born of a virgin, 
and thus they took from her her own most 
singular privilege. They made her a divinity, 
and offered her sacrifice, and thus sought to 
give to her the rights which belonged to her 


divine Son. St. Epiphanius replied to the new 
heresy. And whilst he showed that she was to 
be honoured, though not adored like her Son, 
he exalted her true dignity in the most elevated 
language. " God," he says,." prepared for His 
Only-begotten Son, the heavenly bride, a 
Virgin, whom the Father loved, whom the Son 
inhabited, whom the Holy Ghost searched 

It is this divine maternity of Mary which 
explains both her perfect excellence and her 
perfect holiness. It is the key to all her 
gifts and privileges. For the excellence of 
each creature is to be found in the degree in 
which it resembles its Creator. And as the 
Son of God was the " figure of the Father's 
substance,"! as He was God, and as that God- 
head filled His soul, and divelt in Him bodily, 
so that as far as the most perfect of human 
natures could do, His own bore the image and 
expression of His divinity, so Mary was made 
as like to Him, as being a mere creature, she 
could be made. For, having no earthly father, 
Our Lord bore the human likeness of His 
mother in all His features. Or rather, she 
bore His likeness. And as, for thirty years of 
His life, her mind was the law which directed 
His obedience, and her will the guide, which 
regulated His actions, her soul was the perfect 
reflection of His conduct. And as all created 
holiness is derived from Jesus, and from the de- 
gree of our union with Jesus, of which union His 

* St. Epiph. De Laudibus B. V. Maria, 
f Hebr. i. 3. 


sacred and life-giving flesh is the great instru- 
ment ; we may understand something of the per- 
fect holiness of the Mother of God, from the per- 
fection of her union with her Son. For He was 
formed by the Holy Ghost of her flesh. And 
His blood, that saving blood which redeemed 
the world, was taken from her heart. And 
whilst the Godhead dwelt bodily in Him, He, 
for nine months, dwelt bodily in her. And all 
that time He breathed of her breath, and lived 
of her life. All that time, the stream which 
nourished the growth of life in Jesus flowed 
from the heart of Mary, and, at each pulsation, 
flowed back again, and re-entered His Mother's 
heart, enriching her with His divinest spirit, 
How pregnant is that blood of His with sanctify- 
ing grace, one drop of which might have re- 
deemed the world. And from the moment of 
His conception He had already made His obla- 
tion, for as St. Paul says : " Coming into the 
world He said : A body Thou hast fitted to me. 
Holocausts for sin did not please Thee. Behold 
I come. In the head of the book it is written 
of me: that I should do Thy will, God." 
And Mary was that most pure Temple in which 
the great High Priest made His offering. There 
He first offered up that blood, there He first 
offered up that flesh, of which He said at a 
later time : " If you eat my flesh and drink 
my blood, you shall have life. As the Father 
lives in me and I live by the Father, so he tuho 
eats me, the same shall live by me." But now, 
it is in a far more intimate and constant way 
that Jesus lives by Mary, and Mary lives by 
Jesus. Oh, who can tell that mystery of life ? 


Who can comprehend that union between the 
two hearts of Jesus and of Mary ? Every one 
can understand how much He has been enriched 
through the heart of His mother, and how His 
noblest sentiments have been derived from her. 
But who can understand how Jesus enriched 
the heart of Mary in that incomparable union ? 
For, next to that union by which Jesus is God 
and man in one person, there is no union so 
intimate as that of a mother with her child. 
The saints are His brethren by adoption, but 
Mary is His Mother by nature. They have 
affinity with Him, but she holds with Him the 
first degree of consanguinity. Her graces, then, 
are of quite another order than those which 
sanctified the very holiest of the saints. And 
as St. Thomas says, through the operations of 
her maternity, she touches more nearly on the 
confines of divinity. And which of the Seraphs 
could ever say to the Lord omnipotent : Thou 
art my son, this day have I conceived Thee ? 

Jesus is born, and His features are a copy of 
her features, as He lies in the arms of His 
Mother. They converse together through each 
others' eyes, and the soul of Mary is the mirror 
of the soul of Jesus. And He puts His divine 
head upon her bosom, and drinks of her foun- 
tains " filled from Heaven."* 

Then came the time when she must exercise 
her maternal office, not only with her heart but 
through her mind. And if God endowed the 
mind of Moses for his office as the guide of His 
people, if He put wisdom into Solomon, for the 

* Hymn of the Church. 


sake of Israel, with what exquisite wisdom did 
He not endow the Mother of God for her far 
greater office towards Jesus. For Mary guided 
the ways of Jesus. She was the minister of the 
Father's will to His incarnate Son. Three days 
only excepted, the Scripture records the first 
thirty years of His life in the brief word, that 
He was subject to His parents. And during that 
long time, the word of Mary was the law of Jesus. 
During all that time, she not only studied the 
life of Jesus, but she commanded His will, and 
guided His actions; and those actions were each 
of them contributing to the glory of God and 
the salvation of the world. 

Now may we understand those words of 
Jesus, when He answered the woman, who ex- 
claimed to Him from the crowd, " Blessed is the 
womb that bore Thee, and the breasts that 
nourished Thee." And He said : " Yea, more 
blessed are they ivho hear the Word of God 
and keep it." She was blessed that she had 
borne Him. But she was far more blessed that 
she had received and obeyed that Word by 
which she had deserved to bear Him. And 
hence Elizabeth gave her that greeting, "Bless- 
ed art thou ivho hast believed" She heard 
that word at all times in her heart. She spoke 
it to Jesus; she heard it from the lips of Jesus. 
The dignity of her maternal office had brought 
even greater blessings to her soul than to her 
virginal frame, and, as St. Augustin says, " she 
conceived Jesus more happily in her mind than 
in her womb." And when our Lord made His 
remark in reply to that woman, as St. Cyprian 
observes, He was not comparing Mary with any 


other person, but He compared the different 
gifts and offices which were united together in 
her person,* 

There is another source of Mary's preroga- 
tives. Jesus came not to violate but to confirm 
the law of the commandments. And He con- 
firmed them more especially by His obedience 
to their precepts. But of these commandments, 
the first given with a promise, as Si Paul re- 
minds us, is that one which says : " Honour thy 
father and thy mother." The claims of a mother 
to the honour and the gifts of her son are pre- 
eminent before those of all other claimants. 
How often does God compare His own claims 
upon us to the claims of parents on their chil- 
dren, as where He says: " Ifl am a father where 
is my honour?" Hence on this subject, St. 
Methodius addresses Mary thus; "Thou hast 
Him for thy debtor, who lends to all. For we 
all owe debts to God ; but to thee even He is in- 
debted, who has said : ' Honour thy father and 
thy mother' And that He might fulfil His own 
law, and exceed all men in its observance, He 
paid all honour and all grace to His own 
Mother. "f Hence, St. Eucherius says: " If you 
would know how great is the Mother, think how 
great is the Son." Hence, again St. Augustin : 
" No heart can conceive, no tongue can express 
the effect of the dignity and grace" of her 
maternity. And lastly, St. Anselm, that, " to 
proclaim this alone of the Blessed Virgin, that 
she is the Mother of God, exceeds every height 

* St. Gyp. De Passione Domini, 
t St. Method. Or, de Puriflcatione. 


and name, which, after that of God, it is possi- 
ble for us to think of."* 

But we have now to consider what founda- 
tions God laid when He created Mary; when 
He framed her for an office which raised her so 
far above the laws and customs of our human 
nature. We have to consider how the Most High 
did found His tabernacle. We have to consi- 
der, how the Eternal Word, in the infinity of 
His power, prepared a Mother for Himself. We 
have to consider how the Holy Spirit of grace 
prepared His spouse. We have to seek for the 
beginning of her ways, and to explain the pri- 
mal cause of so much dignity, and grace, and 
purity. But, alas ! conceived in sin and born in 
sin, living in actual sin, and bearing about us 
the deep scars and traces of our origin in 
sin, surrounded, pressed upon, and blinded by 
the effects of sin in a world of sin, how can we 
approach so near to Jesus, that we may learn 
from Him the grace of Mary, unless He be 
pleased in His infinite goodness to approach to 
us : unless He both purify our hearts and illu- 
minate our mind to see this noblest work of His 
grace and love, this most glorious of the works 
of His redeeming power ? 

* Eadmer, De Excell. B. M. 2. 




THOSE who have only read the Fathers of the 
Church in the brief extracts from their works, 
which are so often cited, can have no idea of 
the amplitude and magnificence with which they 
extol the praises of the Mother of God. I pro- 
pose, therefore, to give more satisfactory exam- 
ples of the mode in which they speak of her in 
this chapter. 

St. Proclus was a disciple of St. Chrysostom, 
and is highly commended by St. Cyril, as well 
for his learning and piety as for his accurate 
observance of the discipline of the Church. In 
the year 429, on a feast of the Blessed Vir- 
gin, in the great Church of Constantinople, he 
preached a discourse on the Mother of God, 
which was received with great applause by the 
people. Nestorius was present, and unable to 
endure so much truth, he rose up and burst out 
with a reply. The discourse was afterwards 
placed at the beginning of the Acts of the Coun- 
cil of Ephesus. I propose to give the first part 
of it. St. Proclus begins : 

" The Virgin's festival incites our tongue to- 
day to herald her praise. And well may this 
solemnity be considered fruitful to the assembled 
faithful. For we celebrate her, who is the argu- 
ment for chastity and the glory of her sex ; her 


who is Mother at once and Virgin. Lovely and 
wonderful is this union. Let nature rejoice, and 
mankind exult, for women have also received 
their honour. Let men show their delight, that 
virgins are held in esteem. For, ivhere sin 
abounded, there grace has super abounded. 
For now the holy Mary, Virgin, Mother of 
God, brings us together. That undefiled trea- 
sury of virginity ; that spiritual paradise of the 
second Adam ; that laboratory of the union of 
natures ; that mart of the commerce of salva- 
tion ; that bridal chamber, in which the Word 
espoused flesh unto Himself; that animated 
bush of nature, which the fire of the divine 
birth consumed not ; truly the bright cloud, 
which bore Him bodily who sits upon the 
Cherubim : the most clean fleece of the celestial 
shower, with which the Shepherd put on the 
condition of the sheep. Mary, I say, handmaid 
and Mother, Virgin and heaven ; the only bridge 
of God to men ; the awful loom of the Incarna- 
tion, in which, by some unspeakable way, the 
garment of that union was woven, whereof the 
weaver is the Holy Ghost ; and the spinner, the 
overshadowing from on high ; the wool, the 
ancient fleece of Adam ; the woof, the undefiled 
flesh from the Virgin ; the weaver's shuttle, the 
immense grace of Him who brought it about ; the 
artificer, the word gliding through the hearing. 
Who ever saw, who ever heard how God dwelt 
in the womb, yet suffered no limitation ; and 
now, Him whom the heavens do not contain, 
the Virgin's womb did nothing straiten. He 
is born of woman, not God only, nor merely 
man, and by His birth He made woman the 


gate of salvation, who before had been the 
gate of sin. For where the serpent entered 
through the way of disobedience, and shed his 
poison ; there the Word, through the way of 
obedience, entered, and built a living temple for 
Himself. From whence Cain, the firstborn of sin, 
came forth, thence without man's concurrence, 
came Christ, the Redeemer of "our race. It 
shamed not the loving God to be born of woman, 
for it was life He was building up. He con- 
tracted no stain from His lodging in that womb 
which He had formed without any dishonour. 
For except His Mother had remained a virgin, 
the offspring would be but man, and the mys- 
tery of the birth would be lost. And if after 
bearing she remained a virgin, how shall He not 
be also God, and a mystery which is unuttera- 
ble ? He is born of no corruption, who went 
forth unhindered through the closed doors. 
And when Thomas saw his conjoined natures, 
he cried out and said : " My Lord and my God." 
Think not, O man, that this is a birth to be 
ashamed of, since it was made the cause of our 
salvation. For if He had not been born of 
woman, He had not died ; and if, in the flesh, He 
had not died, neither would He have destroyed 
Him through death, who had the empire of 
death, that is, the devil By no means was the 
architect dishonoured, for He dwelt in the house 
which He Himself had built. K"or did the clay 
soil the potter in refashioning the vessel He had 
moulded. Nor did aught from the Virgin's 
womb defile the most pure God. For as He 
received no stain in forming it, so He received 
none in proceeding from it. Oh womb, in which 


the general decree of man's freedom was written. 
Oh womb, in which the arms against the devil 
were forged. field, in which the divine hus- 
bandman grew wheat without sowing. temple, 
in which God was made a priest, not changing na- 
ture, but, through mercy clothing Himself as the 
priest according to the order of Melchisedec. The 
Word was made flesh, though the Jews believed 
not our Lord when He said it. Truly God took 
the form of man, though the Gentiles deride the 
miracle. Wherefore St. Paul exclaimed, " To 
the Jews, a scandal and to the Gentiles, foolish- 
ness. They know not the force of the mystery, 
because it passes their reason and comprehen- 
sion. For if they had known it, they would 
never have crucified the Lord of Glory. But 
if the Word had not dwelt in the womb, neither 
would the flesh have been seated on the holy 

This commencement forms part of one of six 
discourses delivered by St. Proclus on the Bless- 
ed Virgin. 

Basil, Archbishop of Selucia, was betrayed, 
with many others, into signing the false Council 
of Ephesus, assembled in the interests of Nesto- 
rius. For this he was deposed, but, afterwards he 
was reinstated in his See. In beginning to dis- 
course on the greatness of the Mother of God, he 
reveals his sense of the deep unworthiness which 
in his piety he felt, because of the error he had 

" He," he says, " who would exalt the holy 
Virgin and Mother of God, will find a most 
ample subject for his praises. But having 

St. Proclus, Orat. i. in Laud. S. Maria, Ed. CombeSs. 


before me my own weakness, struck to the soul 
I have long delayed. Oppressed with the 
weight of my sins, I have hesitated and delayed 
upon the matter which such discourse demands. 
For I have thought it the work of the most 
clear sighted men, of those who are eminently 
purified in soul and body, and that only those 
who have been intimately illuminated by the 
light of Divine Grace can worthily accord the 
praises which are due to the Mother of God. 
But I have nothing in me that can inspire this 
confidence and freedom of speaking. For my 
lips have not been purified like those of Isaias, 
who waited for the seraph, with the divine coal. 
Nor, like the divine Moses, have I loosened the 
shoes from the feet of my soul. What fear 
ought to encompass me then, when I undertake 
to offer praise to the Mother of God; lest, 
through some indiscretion, I should utter words 
unsuited to her dignity. It is not my aim to 
ascend a visible mountain whence I might cleave 
the overspreading atmosphere, and be caught 
up into the midst of the stars sparkling in all 
their brilliancy, however such a thing were to be 
done ; nor even rise above their orderly array, 
where, nearing the heavenly poles, I might take 
my stand upon the glorious course of their 
impetuous career. But lifting my head above 
these, my purpose is, as far as my power will 
allow, with the help of the Spirit who guides to 
things divine, even to pass by the choirs of 
angels with the leaders of their ranks, and to 
rise above the brightness of the Thrones, the 
honoured dignity of the Dominations, the Prin- 
cipalities in their place of command, and the 


clear lustre of the Powers ; and then the clear- 
sighted purity of the many-eyed Cherubim, 
and the six-winged Seraphim with their move- 
ments unrestrained on either side, and if there 
be any created being above these, I will not 
there stay my course or my longing desire, but 
will dare to fix my curious gaze intently, as far 
as is permitted for man in chains of flesh, and 
will contemplate the co-eternal brightness of the 
Father's glory, and encompassed and enlightened 
with that True Light, will begin the hymn of 
praise to the Mother of God there, from whence 
she became the Mother of God, and obtained 
that name and title." 

" Can there be any subject more sublime than 
this ? He who thinks so has not understood the 
difference between things human and things 
divine. For as it is not easy to know God and 
to speak of Him, yea, rather it is among the 
things that can least be done ; so the great 
mystery of the Mpther of God transcends both 
speech and reason. When then I speak of the 
Mother of God incarnate, I will ascend to God 
by the help of prayer, and will seek Him for the 
guide of my speech, and will say to Him : O 
Lord Omnipotent, King of the whole creation, 
who, in an incomprehensible manner dost infuse 
Thy spiritual light into incorporeal minds, illu- 
minate my mind, that the subject set before me 
may be understood Avithout error, may, when 
understood, be spoken with piety, and when 
spoken, may be received without hesitation." 

Here Basil casts himself upon the mysteries 
of the Divinity, and then proceeds to those of 
the Incarnation, after which he runs through 


the prophecies which anticipate the coming of 
Christ of a Virgin Mother : and illuminated 
with these truths, he passes to speak of that 
Virgin Mother. 

" From what flowers of praise shall we cull a 

farland worthy of her ? From her sprang the 
ower of Jesse ; she clothed our race with glory 
and with honour. What encomiums can we 
offer her as she deserves, when everything of 
this world is beneath her merits ? For if St. 
Paul pronounced these words of the other saints, 
that the world was not worthy of them ; what 
shall we say of the Mother of God, who shone 
with as great a splendour above the martyrs, 
as does the sun above the stars ? It is clearly 
fitting we should greet her with these words of 
Solomon : ' Many daughters have wrought 
virtue, but thou hast risen above them all.' O 
Sacred Virgin, well may the angels exult 
through thee, destined as they are to the ser- 
vice of men, from whom, in former times, they 
turned away. And let Gabriel now rejoice, for 
to him is intrusted the message of the Divine 
Conception, and he stands before the Virgin in 
great honour. Wherefore, in joy and grace he 
auspiciously begins the message : ' Hail, fall of 
grace, the Lord is with thee.' 

" Hail, full of grace. Let thy face be joy- 
ful. For from thee shall the joy of all be 
born; and He shall take away their ancient 
execration, dissolve the empire of death, and 
give to all the hope of resurrection. Hail, full 
of grace. Most flourishing paradise of chastity ; 
in which is planted the tree of life which shall 
produce for all the fruits of salvation ; and from 


which the fountain of the gospels shall stream 
to all believers, in floods of mercy from their 
fourfold source and spring. Hail, full of 
grace. Mediatrix of God and men, through 
whom the middle wall of enmity is cleared 
away, and earthly things conjoined with those 
of heaven. The Lord is with t/iee. For thou 
art a temple truly worthy of God, and odorif- 
erous with the aromatics of chastity. In thee 
shall dwell the great High Priest, who, accord- 
ing to the order of Melchisedec, is without 
father and mother, of God without mother, of 
thee without father." 

" Emanuel then came into this world, which 
before He had created ; a child new born, 
though pre-eternally existing ; who lay in the 
crib, and was borne upon the Cherubim ; who 
found no place in the inn, yet prepared the 
eternal tabernacles. And the most Holy Mother 
of the Lord of all, the true Mother of God, 
pondering these things in her heart, as it is 
written, imbibed full draughts of joy within 
her, and as the greatness of her Son and her 
God revealed itself more and more to the eyes 
of her soul, her awe increased with her delight." 

" As then she looked upon the divine infant, 
and fastened her affections full of reverence 
upon Him, alone with Him, she spoke in her 
emotion such words as these : What fit name 
shall I find for Thee, my Son ? A man's name 
shall I give Thee ? But Thy conception is di- 
vine. God's name shall I give Thee ? But 
Thou hast taken human flesh. Shall I nourish 
Thee with milk, or shall I glorify Thee ? Shall 
I cherish Thee as Thy mother, or adore Thee 


as Thy handmaid ? Shall I embrace Thee as 
my Son, or adore Thee as my God ? Shall I 
present Thee iny breast or offer Thee incense ? 
What is this greatest, this most unutterable of 
mysteries ? Heaven is Thy seat, and Thou art 
carried on my breast. Thou art altogether 
here, with the dwellers of this earth, and Thou 
hast in nothing left the dwellers of the heavens. 
Nor hast Thou come here through change of 
place, but Thy divine condescension has brought 
Thee into our condition. I search not the 
secrets of Thy incarnation, but I entreat Thy 
goodness and Thy clemency." 

See what a mystery is wrought in her ; how 
it passes both thought and speech. Who then 
will not admire the vast power of the Mother of 
God? Who will not see how far she is lifted 
above the saints ? For if God gave to His ser- 
vants a grace so great, that by their very touch 
they healed the sick, and the mere casting of 
their shadows across the street could do the 
same thing ; if Peter, I say, with his shadow, 
could heal the infirm ; and if when men took the 
handkerchief which wiped the perspiration from 
Paul, they drove the devils away with it, how 
much power, think you, did He give His Mo- 
ther ? And what wonder if the saints, whilst 
they lived and walked on earth, had such effica- 
cious influence, when even after their death 
the earth could not shut up their power. For 
whilst their bodies lie beneath ponderous stones, 
if we approach to them in a worthy spirit, they 
bring health to those who need it. But if to 
the saints He has granted to do things so won- 
derful as these, what has He given to His 


Mother for her nursing ? "With what gifts has 
He adorned her ? If Peter is called blessed, and 
the keys of heaven are entrusted to him, because 
he called Christ the Son of the living God, how 
must she not be more blessed than all, who 
deserved to bear Him whom Peter confessed? 
And if Paul is called a vessel of election, because 
he carried the august name of Christ over the 
earth, what vessel is the Mother of God, who 
did not merely contain the manna, like the 
golden urn, but who in her womb bore that 
bread that heavenly bread, which is the nou- 
rishment and strength of the faithful ? " 

" But I fear, lest, whilst prepared to say more 
concerning her, I should say little that is wor- 
thy of her dignity, and bring the more shame 
upon myself. Wherefore I draw in the sail of 
my discourse, and retire into the harbour of 

The extract which follows is from a discourse 
of Theodotus, Bishop of Ancyra, who was one 
of the most active and able antagonists of Nesto- 
rius. It is taken from his sermon on the Holy 
Mother of God, and Saint Simeon, f 

" Let us begin with the salutation of Gabriel, 
the heavenly citizen. Hail full of grace, the 
Lord is with thee. Let us take up the greet- 
ing again. Hail, our longed-for joy : hail, glory 
of the Church : hail, sweetly breathing name : 
hail, divinely refulgent and most gracious coun- 
tenance : hail, most venerable stronghold : hail, 

* Basil. Seleuc. Orat. in S. Dei Genitricem. Combefls. 

f This discourse seems to have been incorrectly attributed to St. 
Auipliilocbius, Vid. Cellier. t. 13. p. 451. 


salubrious and spiritual fleece : hail, yes hail, 
thou clothed with light and mother of the splen- 
dour which knows no setting : hail, most 
undefiled mother of sanctity : hail, pellucid 
fountain of life-giving milk : hail, thou new 
mother and framer of a new birth : hail, thou 
new book of that new hand-writing of which 
Isaias sings, and of which men and angels are 
witnesses : hail, thou alabaster vessel of the un- 
guent of sanctification : hail, thou upright dealer 
in the coin of virginity : hail, thou who fashioned 
by hand, embraced Him who fashioned thee: 
hail, thou who, be the limits of thy capacity what 
may, yet containest Him who contains all 

" Why do you foolishly dissent from the 
truth? And why do you detract from, why do 
you deny the good pleasure of God, as it is pro- 
videntially ordered in the most holy Virgin for 
the common salvation ? For He who created 
the primeval virgin without reproach, framed 
the second also without spot or crime. And He 
who made the exterior beautiful, adorned the 
interior with holiness for the abode of the soul ; 
which therefore appeared most sweet and delec- 
table to God. 

" Ye Christians who are good and teachable 
of God, hearken to the divinely inspired predic- 
tions of the prophets, for they everywhere ex- 
claim of the most praiseworthy Virgin : ' The 
Most High hath sanctified His tabernacle. 
God is in the midst of her, and she shall not 
be moved, man is born in her, and He the Most 
High hath founded her. 1 But as the adversa- 
ries of the truth are carnal-minded, and have not 


the spirit of God, they savour spiritual things in 
a carnal manner. For that is true which the 
apostle so wisely says : * The animal man per- 
ceives not those things ivhich are of the spirit 
of God' And for this cause, they seek to be 
taught by things sought out from a distance ; 
they are not willing from what is more near and 
familiar to have it shown them that the Virgin 
was changed unto yet greater holiness. But 
things that are known to all eyes render things 
obscure perceptible to sight. As iron, then, 
when it holds commerce with the fire, will scat- 
ter its sparks and flakes upon all that is about 
or in contact with it ; as it improves at the same 
time both in its nature and condition; as it 
quickly gains resemblance with the flame that 
so readily enkindles it ; as it grows incapable of 
being touched by whatever may come near to 
it ; how can it seem wonderful that the all-unde- 
filed Virgin should, by the coming unto her of 
the divine and immaterial fire, be inflamed to 
greater purity? So that removing whatever 
may be opposed to its nature,* she stands re- 
splendent in the beauty of a nature the most 
pure. And so far, indeed, that henceforth she 
is incapable of being approached near to, or 
endured, or even beheld by those who are be- 
come degenerated through carnal vileness. And 
as he on whose head there is water poured, is 
overstreamed with the dropping fluid from head 

* Theodotus has affirmed, in the previous paragraph, that the Blessed 
Virgin was made without spot or crime, as Eve was created without 
reproach, and he here illustrates that more perfect holiness, and yet 
more absolute purity, which arose from the descent of the Holy Ghost at 
the incarnation. 


to foot ; so the holy Virgin and Mother is im- 
bued in every part of her nature by the sanctity 
of the Holy Ghost descending upon her : and 
then, at last, we believe that she received God, 
the living Word, into her virginal and unguent 
breathing chamber." 




WE have to consider the question, whether, 
from the first moment of her existence, the 
Mother of God obtained a preparation of grace 
and purity commensurate with her most sublime 
office and her maternal dignity. We must 
therefore first consider the laws and principles 
which may be supposed to govern the subject. 
And the first which presents itself is this very 
principle of preparation. 

The Old Testament, in all that it embraces, 
is but one great example of this principle. Its 
history and genealogies, its rites and sa- 
crifices, its miracles and providences, its 
prophets and other great personages, all are 
shaped out and directed by God towards the 
one great mystery of the Incarnation of His 
divine Son. And as is the whole, so is each 
particular part. Preparation is one of the 
grand laws of the divine economy, and one which 
is everywhere apparent. And as we approach 
nearer to the end contemplated, so do we find the 
preparations more perfect, and higher grades of 
holiness in the instruments which God designs 
to employ in their accomplishment. The general 
law is that of a gradual advance of preparation, 
yet evil may still remain, and may be allowed 
to encompass and assault what is holy, or even 


to afflict and crucify it, and thus to be a means 
of purification or probation, but notwithstanding 
the presence of evil, it is not suffered to be the 
source from which aught that is holy springs. 

Great personages are raised up by God to 
prepare the way for His Son. Some begin a 
new epoch, and advance the order of things 
towards the Incarnation. Some are of Our 
Lord's ancestry, and are specially chosen, 
specially sanctified, and the descent to Him 
limited within their line. Some are prophets, 
organs of the eternal Word, who partake before- 
hand in the knowledge of the \Yord made flesh. 
All are remarkable figures of Christ. And 
what we have now to observe is, the striking 
way in which God prepares them for their 
sacred offices. For in many cases this prepara- 
tion is minutely recorded, though in others, 
it is but insinuated in the divine history. We 
have sufficient examples given to shew us that 
preparation is a principle of the divine economy ; 
and, as it were, a Law with God. We can also 
see, that such a preparation bears relation to the 
office for which each person is designed ; and 
that the nearer that office stands related to the 
Incarnation, the higher and more supernatural 
is the preparation which precedes it. 

Thus Abraham is fixed upon to found the 
line from which our Lord shall spring. He is 
separated from his country and kindred, and is 
brought into very intimate communion with 
God. He receives a great gift of faith, and a 
great grace of obedience. He is put to long 
and severe trials. And only after all human 
hopes and natural expectations have passed 


away, docs he receive the promised son. And 
if the descent of our Lord from Adam was 
limited in Abraham, the descent of our Lady 
from Eve was equally limited to his line, and 
Sarah was a figure of her. For the Almighty 
said : Sarah shall bring forth a son. And she 
conceived her son after the powers of nature had 
expired. Abraham is met, after his victory, by 
Melchisedech, -who is the priest of the Most 
High God, and the type of the royal priest- 
hood of Christ. St. Paul says, that he was 
without father, mother, or length of days ; and 
though this be an allegory, yet it seems to point 
to a mysterious origin. 

Moses is predestined to be the deliverer of 
God's people, their lawgiver, and guide, and 
it was predicted that Christ should be like to 
him. His preparation for his office begins 
with his existence. And the very law intended 
for the destruction of his race becomes the cause 
that brings about that preparation. He is saved 
by divine interposition in his infancy, brought 
up at the court of Pharao in the learning and 
wisdom of the Egyptians, and God adorns his 
mind with special graces for his future office. 

Joseph, that great figure of the Saviour of 
the world, is born, because God remembered 
Rachel, heard her, and opened her womb. 
And after his miraculous birth, his early life 
consists of a singular course of preparations 
leading him to his future office. 

David is designed to commence that royal 
line in which our Lord's descent is again limited. 
He is called from his youth, anointed by antici- 


pation, and God is with him until He seats him 
on the throne of Juda. 

Isaac is the great figure of our Lord, as 
well in his birth as in his sacrifice, and lie 
therefore is miraculously conceived. Sam- 
son is raised up, to begin to deliver Israel from 
the Philistines. He is the figure of Christ's 
victorious power. An angel announces his con- 
ception, and before his existence has begun, 
special laws are prescribed for his observance. 

Samuel opens the line of the great prophets. 
He also anoints the royal lineage of Christ in 
the person of David. His mother is barren, 
and he is a child of prayer. He is vowed to God 
ere his existence, is brought up in the temple, 
and in his childhood God converses with him 
God also prepared Daniel with grace and wis- 
dom from his childhood. Isaias is the evange- 
list before the Gospel, the prophet by eminence 
of the Incarnation. We have no account of his 
birth, but before he began to prophesy, he had 
a special preparation. The Seraph cleansed his 
lips with a burning coal from the altar. Jere- 
mias is the prophet of the Passion, and the 
figure of our Lord's sorrows. And to him the 
Almighty says : " Before I made thee in the 
bowels of thy mother, I knew thee : and before 
thou earnest forth out of the ivomb, I sanctified 
thee, and made thee a prophet unto the na- 

But the long expected hour of the Incarna- 
tion is at hand, and one is raised up, whose 
especial office it is, more directly to prepare the 
way before the Son of God. And for this 
singular office, exercised so near to the Son of 


God. we find, as we might have expected, from 
what has gone before, that he receives a most 
singular preparation for his sacred office. Holy 
and aged parents are selected by God, an 
Archangel comes and announces to them his 
conception, and prescribes a law for the child. 
That conception is miraculous. He is filled with 
the Holy Ghost, even from His mother's womb. 
Nor have we yet reached the end of the wonders 
that surround the origin of our Lord's precur- 
sor. At the awful moment of the Annunciation, 
Gabriel says to Mary : " And behold thy cousin 
Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her 
old age ; and this is the sixth month with her 
that is called barren ; because no word shall 
be impossible with God" Thus, John's concep- 
tion is made an argument and a proof of God's 
power to Mary. And no sooner did she hear of 
that miraculous conception than she bowed down 
her will to God, and said: "Behold the hand- 
maid of the Lord, be it done to me according to 
thy word." Mary hastens to visit Elizabeth. 
Elizabeth hears the salutation of Mary, and the 
moment the sound of Mary's voice is heard, the 
child of Elizabeth leaps for joy. It is the first 
sounding of Mary's voice, which is the sign for 
these graces. And Elizabeth herself is filled 
with the Holy Ghost, and she exclaims: " Whence 
is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should 
come to me ?" Then Mary breaks forth in her 
rapturous canticle. 

The various offices we have been considering, 
had their cause in the Incarnation of the Son 
of God. They looked towards that mystery 
of mysteries, and prepared the way for its 


accomplishment. And when we consider how 
those great personages who were pre-elected 
to fulfil them, were prepared and pre-sa notified, 
can we suppose that she who was pre-elected 
for the greatest, and the most pre-eminent of 
all offices, that she, in whose very person that 
mystery was to receive its consummation, was 
not prepared and pre-sanctified in a yet more 
perfect manner ? The preparation of those who 
preceded her began early, sometimes at their 
very origin, or came at any rate previous to 
their immediate call to their special office, 
whether as founders of the lineage of Jesus, or 
as anticipating Him in their persons, or as pro- 
phetically conceiving the eternal word in their 
minds, and bringing it forth in speech. But 
Mary was the Mother, whilst they were but the 
ancestors ; Mary embraced what they but anti- 
cipated ; Mary conceived Him truly whom they 
conceived but mentally. They were but the 
ministers of God ; she was the Mother of God, 
and, under God, the one co-operator of the 
Incarnation through the submission of her will. 
" If Jeremias," as St. Anselm says, " who pro- 
phesied in groanings, was sanctified in the 
womb ; and if John, the precursor of the Lord, 
was filled with the Holy Ghost in the womb of 
his mother, who dares to maintain that the ark 
of the propitiatory of the whole world was de- 
prived of the illumination of the Holy Spirit ?"# 
Consider for a moment that long-descended 
ancestry of Christ. Patriarchal and kingly as 
it is, from what eause does it derive its illus- 
triousness ? Not like other great lines, from its 

* L. De Conceptu Virginal!. 


first founder, but from its last descendant. Abra- 
ham, Jacob, and David, are so great, because 
Mary is to be their daughter. When they have 
given birth to her, they have accomplished that 
for which they were appointed, and the line 
of David disappears from history. She is the 
sum and complement of all those preparations. 
Christ is the Son of David, and the Son of Abra- 
ham, because He is the Son of Mary. And she 
embraces the Son of God as her child, whom 
they embrace but as a Son through her. 

When a temple was to be built for the habi- 
tation of God, it was God Himself who drew the 
plan. David was not to build it because he was 
a man of blood ; but the wise and peaceful 
Solomon was chosen for its builder. The pre- 
parations were magnificent beyond description, 
and it was put together in silence. And the 
house when it was in building, was built of 
stones, hewed and made ready, so that there 
was neither hammer nor axe, nor any tool of 
iron heard in the house when it was in building. 
And Solomon tells us the cause when he says, 
that a dwelling is prepared, not for man, but 
for God. 

And so was Mary prepared and built up a 
living temple for the indwelling of God. Silently 
was she prepared, but with a magnificence of 
grace of which the magnificence of the mate- 
rial temple was but the figure. For when we 
consider that Jesus, in His infinite holiness, was 
not only separated from sin, but also separated 
from sinners, as St. Paul tells us ; we cannot 
suppose that He took His flesh from a sinner, 
dwelt in a sinner, and came forth from a 


sinnner, that He might be nursed, and ruled, 
and commanded by that sinner, for so many 
years. We cannot but anticipate, that He 
who sanctified so many to prepare His ways, 
did in a most singular manner prepare and sanc- 
tify His living temple, when He made it, and 
that He made His own most Blessed Mother, 
both without sin, and full of grace. Hence a 
writer of the time and school of St. Augustine 
introduces our Lord creating His Mother, as a 
refutation of the impieties of the Manicheans : 
" Whom art thou despising, Manichean ? She 
is my Mother. I framed her with my hands. I 
made the Mother of whom I should be born. 
I prepared the path for my coming."-' 

St. John Damascen, in one of his discourses 
on the Blessed Virgin, has drawn a comparison 
between the creation of earth with its heavenly 
canopy, for a place and Celling for man, that 
mother earth from whose substance the Divine 
Artist formed the body of man so fearfully 
and so wonderfully ; and that more noble 
creation of His grace, by which He prepared 
Mary in body as from earth and in soul as from 
Heaven to be a Mother for His Son. " This is 
that earth of which Isaias sings, that it shall 
germinate mercy and bud forth a Saviour. 
This is that Tabernacle, which is manifest unto 
the God of Jacob. For a most holy place is 
prepared for the most holy Word. Let Jacob 
then cry out, ' This is no other than the house 
of God and the gate of heaven.' When man 

* L. Contra 5 Hseres. 


through infinite goodness was brought into exis- 
tence, the heavens were expanded and the earth 
was spread beneath, and the sea was closed up 
within its bounds, and all things were produced 
for the adornment of the Universe. Then, after 
all, man, royally adorned, was placed in Paradise 
as in a school of virtue. " 

"But when destruction had begun its course, 
lest what God had made should go to ruin and 
perdition, He made a new heaven and earth and 
sea, in which, that He might reform the human 
race through higher counsel, He might Himself 
be contained whom nothing ever can contain. 
This is that Blessed Virgin illustrious in so many 
ways. marvellous work ! She is that heaven, 
for from the most secret treasures of her vir- 
ginity shone forth the Son of Justice. She is 
that earth, from whose undefiled soil grew 
the wheat of life. She is that sea, which from 
its deep womb produced the spiritual pearl. 
How magnificent is this world ! What a stu- 
pendous creation ! Of her Zacharias sings : 
* Rejoice, and be glad, daughter of Sion ; 
for behold I come, and ivill divell in the midst 
of thee, saith the Lord.' And of her it 
is that Joel exclaims : ' earth, be glad and 
rejoice, for the Lord hath done great things.' 
For she is that earth, in which, by the Holy- 
Spirit, He was founded in the flesh of whom 
it is sung : ' Who founded the earth in its 
stability.' She is that earth, in which sprung 
up no thorn of sin, but through whose germina- 
tion sin was rooted out. She is that earth, 
not cursed, like the former earth, bristling with 


thorns and briars ; but the earth on which came 
the blessing of the Lord, since the fruit of her 
womb was blessed, as it is spoken in the sacred 

* Contracted from St. J. Damascen, 2. Horn. De Nativ. B. II. V. 




EVERY law has its exceptions. And it is a 
maxim that the exception confirms the law. 
Nor is this principle limited to human laws. It 
is found in the natural and in the supernatural, 
in the divine and in the human ordering of 
things. And when we take the whole assem- 
blage of laws into our consideration, the princi- 
ple of exception rises above them as a superior 
law. It contemplates motives beyond the mo- 
tives of the law. Tt proves the freedom of the 
Lawgiver. And the ground of its operation is 
found to lie in some object which is exterior to 
and exalted above the common state of things. 
It implies the intervention of a higher power, 
than is indicated in the sanction of the law ; 
and the accomplishment of some more exal- 
ted end or purpose than the law contemplates. 
Thus miracles are exceptions to the fixed and 
constant laws of nature, and their object is the 
mystery of redemption and the laws of grace 
and holiness. 

Take the law of the divine commandments. 
The expression of that sacred law is universal ; 
" Thou skalt not kill" But when the safety 
of society itself is at stake, the magistrate wields 
the sword of justice, which God has put into his 


hand. Take the laws of human society, they 
are universal in their terms, and embrace the 
whole of the members of the body politic within 
their scope ; and yet, for the salvation of that 
body, the king is lifted above the law. 

Let us consider this principle in examples 
from God's dealings with or in His creatures. 
What law is more universal than that by which 
fire burns and consumes ? And it may be well 
to remember that, the fuel of sin is the figure 
by which divines express the concupiscence 
which reigns through mankind from original sin. 
Yet when, by command of the King of Babylon, 
the furnace had been seven times heated, the 
three children walked unharmed and felt re- 
freshed in its flames. And the bush which 
burnt in the sight of Moses and was not con- 
sumed, is a favourite figure with the Fathers for 
the Blessed Virgin. It is a law equally univer- 
sal, that rivers flow on and seek their level. 
But when that symbol of Jesus and Mary, the 
Ark of the Testament, was to enter into the 
promised land, the waters of the Jordan held 
back their floods, and stood like a wall of 
crystal until the ark passed over. No law 
is more fixed and enduring than that by which 
the sun and planets move along their spheres. 
Yet, that the victory of Israel might be com- 
pleted, the sun was arrested in his course. 

We have a most remarkable exception from a 
universal law in Enoch and Elias. In them the 
law of death, that fruit of original sin, is arrest- 
ed, and without death they are translated that 
they may return again to the world after the 
order of ages has been unfolded. We have 


already considered that exception from the 
universal law in Sarah ; how, after being ex- 
hausted by age God enabled her to bring forth a 
son. And we have another remarkable exception 
to the moral law itself in Abraham. For what law 
is there more indispensable than this, that a 
father shall cherish the life of his son? But 
Abraham draws the sword with full intention of 
slaying his son, and placing his body on the 
fiery pile, and, it is reputed to him unto justice. 
Take, again, the sacramental law. Baptism is 
the remedy for original sin, the one and only 
way prescribed for our escape from its conta- 
gion. Our Lord declared, that, " Unless a 
man be born again, of water and of the 
Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the king- 
dom of heaven" Here is a law co-extensive 
with that of original sin, and founded upon its 
universality. And yet it admits of an exception. 
For he who for the faith is put to death before 
he has received that birth through water, re- 
ceives the mystery of Redemption through the 
shedding of his blood. 

But of the exemption of Mary from the law 
of spiritual death, the figure of Esther is perhaps 
one of the most interesting of illustrations. 
Esther is described in Scripture as being exceed- 
ingly fair and of incredible beauty, and agree- 
able and acceptable to the eyes of all per- 
sons. King Assuerus loved her more than all 
women, and made her his queen. Amon, the 
enemy of God's people, plots against that 
people, and obtains a decree from the king, for 
the destruction of the entire race. Esther, who 
is reminded by Mordechai that she has received 


a kingdom for such an occasion as this, enters 
into the presence of the king. " She trembles, 
her mind is full of anguish and fear, her colour 
turns pale, and she rests her weary head upon 
her handmaid." And God changes the spirit of 
the king. In all haste, he leaps from his throne, 
he upholds her in his arms, and he says : 
" What is the matter Esther ? Fear not. 
Thou shalt not die. THIS LAW is NOT MADE 


Esther is proclaimed to be exempted from the 
law, she becomes the instrument through which 
her race is saved. As the great leading princi- 
ples of human law are so often but the reflec- 
tion of a divine order of things, it may be well 
to consider how the civil law regarded a case 
like that of Esther. Ulpian says, " The Prince 
is not subject to the law : but though the 
Empress be subject, yet the prince concedes the 
same privileges to her which he has himself." * 

But in Mary the King of Heaven accom- 
plished His spiritual nuptials with our nature. 
And she is the most wonderful example of excep- 
tion from the common laws of our nature in so 
many ways. No mortal, no angel, no creature 
ever was before, or will be again, the Mother of 
God. Next to her Divine Son, the created 
universe has nothing like to her. And from 
how many laws is she excepted. She is a 
mother without man's concurrence. She is 
mother of God and man at once. She is a 
mother whilst she remains a virgin. She is 
exempted from the curse of Eve, that fruit of 

* Ulpian. Princeps de Legttms. 


original sin, and brings forth her Son without 
pain or sorrow. Her child is born, whilst her 
virginal integrity is preserved. She nourishes 
God at her breast. She commands Him by 
her words, and He is subject to her. In these 
instances, and in a thousand others, she is an 
exception to every law. The Scripture says 
that, " in many things we all offend ; and that, 
even the just fall seven times a day." But it 
is the general teaching and the general belief of 
the Church, that though in the nature of things 
she could have done so, yet never did Mary 
commit an actual sin. It is the law of the 
resurrection, that it shall not take place until 
the judgment ; but though, like her divine Son, 
the Mother of God paid that debt of nature, 
which implied no sin in either the Son or in the 
Mother; yet it is piously believed, that Jesus 
did not allow her most pure and virginal frame 
to see corruption, but assumed that body into 
heaven. Nor did any one ever hear that the 
relics of that holy body were to be sought for 
or produced on earth. 

When we contemplate a life which stands so 
far above the common conditions of our human 
nature ; a life which presents to us such striking 
exceptions from its laws ; does not our very 
reason lead us to look into its commencement 
for some one exception more which may yield 
to us an explanation of its entire course ? If the 
Mother of God is exempted from all such effects 
of the curse as in their nature tend to dishonour 
and degradation, does not her exemption from 
the curse itself present both the simplest and 
the fullest explanation of her other exceptions ? 


And certainly, He who preserved the three 
children from being touched by the fire in the 
midst of which they walked uninjured, and who 
preserved the bush unconsumed in the midst of 
the burning flame, could preserve Mary un- 
touched from the burning fuel of concupiscence. 
He who took up Elias in the fiery chariot, so 
that he tasted not of death, could, in the 
chariot of His ardent love, set Mary on high 
above the law of sin. He who sent down the 
dews of heaven upon Gideon's fleece, whilst all 
besides was dry and parched, could send the 
dew of His graces upon the immaculate and 
most pure Virgin, whilst it was dry upon all 
the world besides. And He who held back the 
waves of that Jordan, that the ark of that Old 
Testament might pass untouched and honoured 
through its bed, could hold back the wave of 
Adam, lest it overflow the ark of the New Tes- 
tament beneath its defiling floods. For that we 
are born in the crime of Adam and with origi- 
nal sin, is not a result of absolute necessity, but 
of the divine will. And if He who ordained 
this penalty, had already solved it in part, when, 
ere His birth, He sanctified the holy Precursor 
of His Coming ; much more could He solve it 
altogether when He sanctified His holy Mother. 

For He, who could have limited Adam's sin 
unto himself, can ward off that sin from Mary. 
And what He could, that He willed to do. For 
why should He not have willed it? Because 
the most Blessed Virgin was included in the 
compact with Adam and his race ? But God, in 
His eternal foresight and knowledge, might not 
have included her. And, again, the question 


returns ; God could do it, why then should He 
not do it? That she might receive the grace 
of redemption ? But it is a greater grace and a 
greater redemption that preserves her from the 
fall, than would have been required to raise her 
after falling. That she might be more humble 
after her fall ? And certainly humility was that 
virtue in Mary which drew the eyes of God upon 
her. But far greater and more perfect is the 
humility of the innocent than the humility of the 
criminal. Humility increases with the dignity of 
holiness and the greatness of God's gifts, and this 
is manifest in the example of Our Blessed Lord 
Himself, who, as man, was the humblest of all 
creatures. It was enough for Mary's humility, 
that she might have fallen, had she not been 
upheld by Him who did great things to her. 
Was justice in the way ? But the Divine Jus- 
tice had exacted its terrible account, when it 
involved the whole race of Adam in his guilt, 
and shut the gate of heaven against them ; 
when even the very Mother of God was by 
nature comprised beneath the law, and could 
only be rescued from its operation by a most 
magnificent act of clemency. But the Son ful- 
filled each law of justice, both the law of con- 
demnation, and the law of filial piety, and the 
law of His own honour, when He paid the 
great price of His Mother's redemption, and 
preserved her from dishonour, and brought not 
occasion against her, or any accusation, and 
was born of her innocence. 

And if, indeed, our human reason be a reflection 
of the divine reason, and human laws of divine 
laws ; and if the universal reason, and the spirit of 


all laws would rise up astonished and distressed to 
see a son accuse his mother, prove her guilt, and 
bring her to the death, when power he had 
abundantly to save her from that ignominy ; 
can we look upon Jesus, upon Jesus the perfect 
man, upon Jesus the God-man, upon Jesus the 
model and example of all men, and of all sons ; 
and then imagine, and that without proof, nay, 
with proof to the contrary, that He, who is 
both judge and accuser, left His Mother in the 
common wreck and condemnation, when it only 
asked His will to save her from it, and yet to 
satisfy all justice ? 

What St. Augustine says on another mys- 
tery is equally applicable to this : " Whatever 
occurs to you in the truth of reason as what 
should be done, know that God, who is the 
giver of all good things, .has done it."* And 
it is in the spirit of this maxim that the great 
Doctor of grace exclaims : " Except the Blessed 
Virgin, of whom I will have no question where 
sin is concerned, for the honour of the Lord."f 

But God could have made Mary immortal 
as well as immaculate, and why then did He not 
equally do this ? For an obvious reason. The 
death of the body is not an evil in itself like 
sin and culpability. It may become the occa- 
sion of the noblest virtues. Our Lord was 
crowned with glory for His death. And His 
Mother shared death with Him. But original 
sin is an abomination before God. 

* St. Aug. L. 3. De Lib. Arbitrio, 
t St. Aug. L. i. De Nat. et Grat. c. 36. 




GOD has ordered His creation on a most won- 
derful scale of ascension. One order of creation 
rises above another : kingdom above kingdom ; 
tribe above tribe ; species above species ; and 
individual above individual within the same 
species. Between the grain of sand on which 
inan treads without a thought, and the seraph 
who lives on the extatic contemplation of God, 
we can find nothing in common, except that 
each has a created existence. The huge round 
bulk of the earth has an incomparably inferior 
order of existence to that of the poor worm 
that crawls upon a speck of its surface. For 
the earth exists for the worm but not for itself. 
Whilst the despised worm has the sense both of 
its own existence and of the existence of the 
earth on which it crawls and feeds. 

The mineral has but an insensate existence ; 
the plant has organization and growth, and 
draws subsistence from the mineral ; the animal 
has life, sense, and instinct, and draws its subsis- 
tence from the plant ; man, to the inferior life of 
the animal, joins an intellectual existence ; whilst 
the angel is more like to God, by the purely 
spiritual nature of his being. *But each of 


these kingdoms of the creation possesses in an 
eminent and more excellent way the qualities 
and attributes of the order which is inferior to 
it. Thus man has existence in common with 
the mineral, organization and growth with the 
plant, sensibility with the animal, and intellect 
and a free will as his own especial attributes ; 
whilst the angel is endowed with the excellence 
of man in a yet more noble manner. He has 
the activity of man without the like need for 
repose, his intelligence free from obscuration, 
and his love without his fears. And among the 
angels the three hierarchies each ascend by 
more eminent gifts of excellence above the 
other. Each hierarchy contains its three orders, 
and each order of those blessed spirits com- 
prises countless individuals, who differ one from 
another, as star from star in excellence and 
glory. The Seraph illuminates the Cherub, 
the Cherub illuminates the Thrones, and each 
order administers to the order next in dignity. 
Whilst the angel is the minister of man, and 
man of the inferior creation. But God reigns 
through all and gives to all according to their 
nature and His goodness. And the excellence 
of each of those created natures lies in the 
degree in which it is a reflection of its Creator. 
But whilst the excellence of the insensible crea- 
ture lies but in the fact of its existence, and in 
a certain order, impressed upon it, and mutely 
reflecting the divine reason of its Creator ; the 
excellence of the spiritual order of creation lies 
not only in the image and likeness of God, but 
also in a certain communion with His eternal 
power, truth, and goodness. 


This brings us from the order of nature to 
the order of grace. As no two men are alike, 
so no two Saints are alike. The supernatural 
order is as endlessly diversified as the natural 
order. God mocks not Himself, nor does He 
make copies from any of His works. Hence 
no two creatures are alike. No two minds, no 
two hearts, and no two faces are alike. The 
law of individuality rests on the law of unceas- 
ing variety. Take the two individuals who have 
the closest resemblance to each other, and the 
more you study them, the more strikingly will 
their distinctions come out. But those distinc- 
tions lie in some farther departure from, or 
some nearer approach to one common idea of 
excellence ; in some power, some quality or 
some gift, which is possible to human nature, 
and belongs to the type of our species. The 
miser lives in his mind and heart, on the lowest 
kingdom of the mineral world, on acres or on 
gold. The epicure sets the enjoyment of his life 
on the vegetable and animal creation placed 
beneath his feet. The impure sensualist lives on 
the animal portion of his own nature. The proud 
man lives on the subjection of other minds to his. 
The saint lives in his mind and in his heart on 
God. How immeasurable the distance between 
the savage and a St. John, the disciple of love ; 
or between the proud philosopher and a St. 
Paul, expending himself for his brethren. Be- 
tween such degradation of our nature on the 
one side, and such elevation towards the sanc- 
tity and power of God, who can measure or 
comprehend the distance ? And even between 


sanctity and sanctity how vast are the spaces in 
given examples. 

St. Paul dilates on the diversity of gifts 
in the saints. They are not only of different 
orders, but each order contains an endless 
diversity of individual examples, " There are 
diversities of graces, but one spirit. And 
there are diversities of ministries, but one 
Lord. And there are diversities of operations, 
but the same God, who worketh all in all."* 
And, speaking in a more ample manner of that 
gradation and diversity which reign throughout 
the natural order, and comparing it with the 
gradation in the supernatural order, the Apos- 
tle again says: "All flesh is not the same 
flesh, but one is the flesh of men, another of 
beasts, another of birds, and another of fishes. 
And there are bodies celestial and bodies ter- 
restrial : but one is the glory of the body celes- 
tial, and another of the terrestrial. One is 
the glory of the sun, another of the moon, and 
another of the stars. FOR STAR DIFFERS FROM 
STAR IN GLORY."! And our Lord Himself says 
of the gradation of that glory, " I go to prepare 
for you a place. In my Father's house there 
are many mansions." 

From this law of diversity, which excludes all 
absolute resemblance or identity in individuals, 
it follows that there must be one example in 
each order of excellence more perfect than the 
rest. And that example is not only the most 
excellent, but it must in an eminent manner 
embrace in itself the various excellencies exem- 

* J Cor. xii. 4, 5- 1 1 Cor. xv. 3941- 


plified in all the instances which stand beneath 
it. Take this in the natural order. Amongst 
poets, there is but one Homer. Amongst orators, 
one Demosthenes. Amongst contemplative phi- 
losophers, one Plato. 

Art in its high and true sense, brings us to 
the same conclusion. It is the idealization of 
nature, the raising up of the mind from indi- 
vidual examples to the highest and most perfect 
type. And if the perfect form of man be under 
consideration, we have but one unsurpassed ideal, 
the famous statue of the Vatican ; of the form 
of woman, but one unrivalled type, the equally 
famous statue of the Florentine gallery. These 
are the perfect and unapproachable types of the 
twofold form of man, as represented in art. 
Whatever excellence is found separately in other 
examples is found perfect and in the completest 
harmony in them. 

Or to take the order of grace. If we con- 
sider the gradation of excellence in the Saints, 
whether in illumination or in charity, we shall 
find we have amongst Fathers, but one St. 
Augustine ; amongst divines, but one St. Tho- 
mas ; amongst Episcopal rulers, but one St. 
Charles ; amongst workers of charity but one 
St. Vincent of Paul ; as amongst Apostles but 
one pre-eminent Apostle of love, and one Apos- 
tle of the Gentiles. 

Virtue as distributed in different souls, or as 
accumulated in one individual, does not give 
results which can be easily brought into com- 
parison. A thousand instances of some ordi- 
nary degree of grace and of corresponding vir- 
tue, in as many Christian souls, can scarcely 


be put in comparison with a thousand degrees 
of grace and holiness accumulated in a sin- 
gle soul. For the higher degrees of virtue 
as of grace are of a different order, and of 
another kind of excellence. It is not so much 
by the rarity of those highest examples, 
as by the force and splendour, the unitive 
power and fertility in great results, which re- 
dound from a high degree of purity, charity, 
and the light of wisdom united in some noble 
and elevated soul, that our common humanity 
is most exalted and God most glorified. How 
many Christians possessing but ordinary de- 
grees of faith and love, think you, would it 
require to render as much glory to God and 
as great a help and example to men, as the 
faith and love of the single soul of St. John ? 
And how many ordinary Christians, combining 
all their lights and virtues, could do the works 
of St. Paul works so mighty that they are 
fertile in fruits even to this day ? 

To illustrate this principle by its extreme 
example, Our Lord accumulated in His sacred 
person, during the sufferings of His mortal life, 
the graces and merits which redeem and sanc- 
tify the human race. In His sacred humanity 
He gave more glory to God beyond measure 
than all saints and angels, while at the same 
time He exalted our human nature in His sacred 

When God then accumulates graces in a very 
high degree in some one individual, He lifts up 
human nature in the same degree, and thereby 
He works to His own greater praise and glory. 
But this is not all. In making these favours 


manifest to men, He is pleased to make a great 
provision for their service. For through that 
wonderful disposition, by which all that is su- 
perior in the hierarchy of holiness illuminates 
and brings help to the inferior, the Saints are 
prepared by God, not only as the Angels were, 
to succour and defend us here on earth, and to 
advocate our interests in heaven, but also by 
shedding on our path the light of their exam- 
ple to encourage us to follow in the path they 

In the mind of God there is one perfect type 
of man, and in that perfect type the varieties of 
excellence in the several classes and individuals 
are eminently contained, and in the highest de- 
gree made perfect. Has God filled up this type 
in His creation, or can we suppose that it is to 
be for ever a barren and unrealized idea ? No, 
that type of man, which the Almighty for ever 
contemplates in His Eternal Word, is the glory 
of His creation. It is the Eternal Word Him- 
self made flesh. Jesus is the head and type of 
all human excellence. He is the one perfect 
man ; of unapproachable excellence in every 
kind of perfection. He is at once, King, Pro- 
phet, High Priest, Virgin, Father, and divinest 
of Victims and Martyrs. And as He resumes in 
Himself each order of perfection, so through the 
hypostatic union, He is absolutely perfect, and 
in Him the whole fulness of the Godhead dwells 

But whilst we find the type, the model, the 
head and very crown of human perfection, 
beyond which it is impossible to ascend, in our 
Blessed Lord and Saviour ; where shall we look 


for the highest form and example of excellence 
in woman ? For though our Lord is the head 
of the whole of humanity, yet of its two coun- 
terparts, man, not woman, was united with the 
divine personality. Where then shall we find 
that woman so perfect that none more perfect 
can be supposed ? Where, in other words, is 
the type and head of womanhood ? As Christ 
is the counterpart of Adam, she must be the 
counterpart of Eve. As Eve brought sin into 
the world, she must bring into the world the 
redemption from sin. To place her at the head 
of woman she must have these two qualities. 
She must have a nearer resemblance to God 
than all others, and a greater union with God 
than all others. And she must resume within 
her person, eminently and surpassingly, the 
several excellencies to be found in every order 
of female excellence. But this supreme excel- 
lence of woman as the type and head of woman- 
hood is only to be found in the Blessed Virgin. 
She is more like to God from her maternal 
resemblance to her Son. She is more like to 
God as bringing forth the Eternal Word in 
the flesh in time, whom the Father has begot- 
ten of His substance from eternity. She is 
incomparably more united to God than any 
other of mere creatures, from her espousal with 
the Holy Ghost and her maternal union with 
her Divine Son. She resumes the excellence 
of every saintly order of her sex; and is at 
once, Queen, Prophetess, Virgin, Spouse of 
God, Spouse of man, Mother of the Man-God, 
and Martyr for her sword of grief was both 
predicted and endured. If she be not sinless 


and most pure, then, never was there woman, 
sinless and most pure ; and the type of woman 
as excellent, as perfect, and unsurpassed as 
even man can contemplate, and which there- 
fore God contemplates most perfectly, was 
never realized. And God has not filled up the 
ideal plan of the creation. And we are com- 
pelled to think that a more perfect woman 
than the Mother of God is yet possible. And 
that Christ, who is ever separated from sin- 
ners, took flesh from a sinner, and one who 
had come from under the devil's yoke. As 
the mind springs back in horror from this 
thought, let us then consider Mary as the 
head of woman and the counterpart of Eve. 
And what place is she assigned in the grand 
scale of the creation? There are diversities 
of graces, and ministries, and operations, which 
the same Spirit works in all the several mem- 
bers of that body, of which Christ is the head. 
And to her is given the grace of the divine 
maternity, the operation of the divine mater- 
nity, and the ministry of the divine maternity. 
In that great body, therefore, of the redeem- 
ed, next to her Divine Son, who is its head, 
she is the first in all graces, rights and privi- 
leges. And thus she stands forth, the head 
and type of woman in every grace and every 
perfection. Her Son is God and she is but a 
creature ; but of all mere creatures she is the 
one most closely allied to God. She most 
perfectly resembles Him. She has the greatest 
influence with Him. And as in all that ascend- 
ing scale of created spirits endowed with the 
divine grace, even the brightest Seraph grows 


dim before the soul of our Blessed Lord, filled 
to eternal overflow with the perfection of the 
divinity ; so Mary has inherited even a more 
excellent name than the Seraph. For what 
Seraph can say to his Lord and Head, thou 
art my Son ? Hence the Fathers of the 
Church, from the earliest to the latest times, 
have rivalled each other in placing the Mo- 
ther of God above all the Choirs of Angels, 
and next her Son in power and glory. And 
hence the Church can only understand of her 
amongst all women the words of the Holy 
Ghost unto the Spouse, " One is my beloved, 
my fair one, my beautiful one is but one." 

St. Anselm resumes the doctrine of all the 
Fathers when he says, " That Christ might be 
conceived of a most pure Mother, it was fitting 
and becoming, that that Virgin should be re- 
splendent with a purity so great, that, under 
God, no greater can be presented to the com- 
prehension of the intellect.""' And St. Thomas 
says, " She touched upon the confines of divi- 
nity." And even a Protestant divine, Bishop 
Hall, has ventured to say : "How worthily is 
she honoured of men, whom the angel pro- 
claimed beloved of God ! Blessed Mary ! 
He cannot bless thee, he cannot honour thee 
too much, that deifies thee not."j In the lan- 
guage of Hesychius, she is " the elect amongst 
women, the most select amongst virgins, the 
brightest honour of our nature, the singular 
ornament of our earthly race."J 

* St. Anselm, L. de Concep. Virg. 

t Quoted in the Justorum Semita, on the Conception of the Blessed 
Virgin Mary. 

t De Laudibus Marie. 


St. Fulgentius has especially contemplated 
the Blessed Virgin as " the restoration of wo- 
man." He shows how she passed through every 
state and office of her sex, that all might find a 
model and a help in her. And that as the new 
Eve she might recover and raise up the fallen 
state of woman.* 

This then has Mary done for woman as the 
head and type of her sex. She has freed her 
from a state of bondage, and has lifted her up 
from her degradation. On Eve, the Almighty 
laid a special curse. " / will multiply thy sor- 
roivs and thy conceptions; in sorrow shalt 
thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be 
under thy husband's power, and he shall have 
dominion over thee." Here is indicated a severe 
yoke and bitter trials. For though man from 
the beginning was the head, yet woman was 
ordained for his companion and helpmate. But 
between the fall and the arrival of the Gospel, 
woman is everywhere in a state of bondage and 
of servitude beneath the power of man. And 
everywhere the wife is guarded with excessive 
jealousy. Even in the Old Law polygamy is 
both permitted and practised by the holiest men. 
And because of the hardness of men's hearts, as 
our Lord Himself has said, divorce obtained a 
legal sanction. And to this day, beyond the 
sphere of Christianity, woman is still in the 
condition of a slave. 

And what then has raised our mothers and 
our sisters from so low and degraded a condi- 
tion ? Mary was given to us. In her, Eve was 
set free and made resplendent. All her daugh- 

* Serm. de Nativit. formerly cited amongst St. Augustine's works. 


ters have shared in the honour of this new 
Mother. Mary has brought grace and favour 
to all women. They are reverenced because of 
the reverence for her. And when amongst a 
people of faith, woman calls for protection in 
her distress and anguish for the honour of the 
Blessed Virgin ! she reveals the foundation on 
which the respect due to her rests. 

But Mary has delivered woman in a yet more 
striking way. She has given honour to the 
state of virginity. She has established it as a 
state of life by her example and her influence. 
Woman is made free, because she has a choice 
of states. She may keep her freedom to the 
Lord her God, or she may give it to a husband. 
And this power of choice, which the grace of 
the Holy Spirit guides, has given a dignity to 
woman which grows the more exalted in our 
minds, the more deeply we reflect upon it. She 
who in her youthful innocence becomes the 
spouse of Christ, and leads a life of divine and 
contemplative love in the presence of her God, 
and she who devotes herself to the same Lord 
in His suffering members, and becomes a sister 
of charity, owes her happiness and dignity to 
Mary. And this holy state has thrown a halo 
of sanctity and freedom around the entire lot of 
woman : whilst at the same time the matron 
rejoices in a respect paid to her maternity 
which derives its dignity from the type of all 
mothers. This wonderful restoration was more 
striking as it arose with the uprising of the 
Church, than now that from long habit and cus- 
tom it looks like the natural order of things. 

Wherever the Church has been overwhelmed 


through worldliness and error ; wherever Mary 
has ceased to influence, and tradition concern- 
ing her has grown dim ; there the reverence of 
woman has begun to retrograde. Two remark- 
able consequences have shown themselves. The 
virgins of Christ are despised and ruthlessly 
assailed. For there is no more faith to be found 
in that high happiness of which grace can make 
them capable. And the state of matronage be- 
comes so far lowered, that the Jewish doctrines 
of divorce, which our Lord abolished, find en- 
trance once more into the laws. 

Every Catholic virgin then and every Catho- 
lic matron, instinctively feels that the type and 
model of woman is immaculate and sinless. 
They repose themselves on Mary as on the 
glory and strength of their sex. No female 
saint ever uttered a doubt as to Mary's sinless 
purity. And even the penitent inagdalen, as 
she recovers her lost soul, draws the argument 
more strongly still from her deep and bitter 
experience of what it is to be a child of Satan. 
And she flies for refuge and strength to the 
feet of a most pure and immaculate Mother. 
Whilst the Church exclaims in her faith, God 
made the most perfect of women that could be 
made when He made the Blessed Virgin for 
His Mother ; therefore He made her sinless and 

See Appendix A. 




THE confusion of two facts, which in their 
nature as in their causes are distinct and most 
completely apart, has given occasion to all the 
difficulties, which have attended as well the com- 
prehension as the contemplation of the most 
pure and sublime mystery, which is under our 
consideration. A child derives not all its creation 
at one instant and from one source. For each 
child has two conceptions. And it is not of that 
one, which the word conception commonly sug- 
gests, that we are now speaking. The body is 
transmitted through the parents, the soul is infus- 
ed by God. The transmission of the body, where- 
by we are of the one body of Adam, is called by 
divines the active conception ; the infusion of 
the soul, whereby the body receives its anima- 
tion, is called the passive conception. The 
distinction between these two conceptions was 
not scientifically drawn at the period anterior 
to St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure. And the 
want of the distinction at an earlier period 
explains the seeming contradiction, for it is only 
an apparent one, which is found in some few of 
the Western Fathers and other writers at an 
earlier period than the thirteenth century. 


Science has not been able to fix the period of 
animation; but at whatever time it may take 
place, it is certain that the body is transmitted 
and organized ere the soul is infused, though the 
interval were but the least of which cognizance 
can be taken. For the infusion of the soul from 
God is consequent on the transmission of the 
body, and cannot be identical with that act or 
with its causes. 

We must further observe, as very important 
for understanding the subject, that the body 
before it has received the animating soul, is not 
the subject, but only the cause of sin. Deriving 
from its origin the poison of concupiscence, it 
has its disordered energies awakened into acti- 
vity by animation ; and the soul, created and 
infused without grace, to which as a child of 
Adam it has lost all claim, becomes overwhelmed 
in its disorder, subjected to its blind confusion, 
and distorted from rectitude, until by the grace 
of Christ it is regenerated through baptism. 
But whilst through that holy sacrament the 
soul is raised up from injustice to life ; the body 
remains subject to its infirmity, and has to be 
subdued and kept under, until it yields up the 
soul in death, for the flesh is only regenerated 
at the resurrection. 

Speaking with the strictest degree of accu- 
racy, the transmission of flesh from Adam is not 
the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but 
the conception of St. Ann. Of several Mothers, 
the Scripture says, she conceived a son. But 
previous to animation, that flesh is not a human 
subject, and possesses no moral qualities. In 
fact it is not Mary. Mary is truly conceived 


when her soul is created and infused into that 

Separating then these two periods of time, 
whatever may be the distance between them, 
the question regards not the embryo, which is 
not humanity, which has no personality, and 
which is incapable of spiritual grace : the ques- 
tion regards the moment of rational animation ; 
of the reception, or, more truly, of the concep- 
tion of the soul ; and the instant of its union 
with the body. To use the words of Perrone, 
who follows Alexander VII., Benedict XIV., 
and all modern divines, the true question is, 
whether the soul of the Blessed Virgin was 
adorned at its creation with sanctifying grace ; 
and whether, therefore, her animation or pas- 
sive conception was immaculate and exempt from 
all sin. 

This is clearly explained, and denned to be 
the question, in the celebrated Constitution of 
Alexander VII. of the eighth December, 1661.* 
The Pontiff says : " It is the ancient and pious 
belief of the faithful of Christ, towards this most 
Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, that her soul, 
at the first instant of its creation and infusion 
into the body, was, by the especial grace and 
privilege of God, in view of the merits of Jesus 
Christ her Son, the Redeemer of the human 
race, preserved and made exempt from the stain 
of original sin. And, it is in this sense, that 
they honour and celebrate with solemn rite the 
Festival of her Conception." And in a later 
part of the Constitution, the same Pontiff 
gays: "Desiring, after the example of the 

* Sellicitudo omnium ecclesiarum. 


Roman Pontiffs our predecessors, to favour 
this piety and devotion, so worthy of praise, 
as also the Festival and that worship which it 
expresses, and which in the Roman Church has 
never been changed since that festival was in- 
stituted; and moreover to protect that piety 
and devotion which honours and celebrates the 
Most Blessed Virgin as preserved by the pre- 
venting grace of the Holy Ghost from original 
sin ; wishing also to preserve in the flock of 
Christ the unity of the spirit in the bond of 
peace, to appease contentions and strifes, and 
to remove scandals ; at the instance and en- 
treaties of the aforesaid Bishops with their 
Chapters, and of King Philip and his king- 
doms, we renew the Constitutions and Decrees 
of the Roman Pontiffs our predecessors, and 
especially of Sixtus IV., Paul V., and Gregory 
XV., published in favour of the sentence which 
affirms that the soul of the Blessed Virgin, at 
its creation and infusion into the body, was 
endowed with the grace of the Holy Ghost, 
and preserved from original sin : as also in 
favour of the Festival and of the honour paid 
to the Conception of the same Virgin Mother 
of God, according to that pious sense above 
stated: and, under the censures and penalties 
contained in those same Constitutions, we com- 
mand them to be observed." 

It is not the intention of Alexander VII., in 
this decree, to define the doctrine, but to explain 
the true sense of the Immaculate Conception as 
an object of devotion. And understood in this, 
its true sense, we at once perceive, that the 
Conception of the Blessed Virgin was beyond 


all comparison more noble and exalted than that 
of John the Baptist, or of any other saint, whilst 
it is immeasurably beneath that of her Divine 
Son. For if the conception of St. Elizabeth 
was miraculous, so also, according to tradition, 
was that of St. Ann, but the soul of the Baptist 
was not preserved immaculate at its union with 
the body, but was sanctified through the pre- 
sence of Jesus at the Visitation. And Our 
Divine Lord was alone conceived of the Holy 
Ghost, in the virginal womb, so that His active 
and passive conception were identical, and both 
most holy and divine. 

It may be well to observe that the expres- 
sions The Immaculate Conception The Im- 
maculate Preservation The Immunity and 
Exception from original sin, are all phrases 
which bear the same signification, and are used 
equally to express one and the same mystery. 




THE Almighty One has said, "My thoughts 
are not as your thoughts, nor my ways as your 
ways ; but as far as the heavens are removed 
from the earth, so far are my thoughts above 
your thoughts, and my ways above your ways." 
He reaches from end to end, and His knowledge 
is from eternity unto eternity, and all things are 
open and manifest before Him. A thousand 
years are but as a day in His sight. And before 
the beginning, He sees what, even in the liberty 
of His creature, is accomplished in the end. 
For from His unchangeable eternity Our God, 
in His most simple and perfect intuition, beholds 
all past, all present, and all future things in a 
present manner. His indivisible eternity is 
equally related to every instant which dawns in 
the succession of time. In His Eternal Word, 
He beholds all things and decrees all creations. 
But the counsel of His eternal wisdom is not 
ordained according to those laws, which direct 
the successions of time. These are laws for the 
creature and not for their Creator. His wis- 
dom contemplates the end of His work, and 
ordains the means unto their ends, and subor- 
dinates the intermediate ends unto the final end. 
And the final end stands first in His eternal 


counsel. And the end of that eternal counsel, 
from which creation springs, is the glorification 
of His Eternal Son through the mystery of the 
Incarnation. Hence Christ is the. Alpha and the 
Omega, the beginning and the end. Hence, 
He says, " sacrifice and oblation thou wouldest 
not ; but a body thou hast fitted to me : holo- 
causts for sin did not please thee. Then said 1: 
Behold I come : in the head of the book it is writ- 
ten of me: that I should do thy will, God"* 
Hence, St. Peter says, " The precious blood 
of Christ, as of a lamb without spot, foreknown 
indeed before the constitution of the world, but 
manifested in the last times" And hence St. 
Paul says, " We have redemption through His 
blood, ivho is the image of the invisible God, 
the first-born of every creature : For in Him 
were all things created in heaven, and on earth, 
visible and invisible, whether thrones or domi- 
nations, or principalities, or powers: all things 
were created by Him, and in Him : and He is 
before all, and by Him all things consist. And 
He is the head of the body, the Church, who is 
the beginning, the firstborn from the dead: that 
in all things He may hold the primacy."] 
And hence, also, in the Apocalypse, Christ is 
called, " The beginning of the creation of 

First, then, and at the head of the book of 
the eternal counsel, stands decreed the incarna- 
tion of the Son of God. By that decree shall 
He, in the fulness of time, be " made of a 
woman," that is of a particular and predesti- 

* Heb. x. 5. f Coloss. i. 1518. J Apoc. iii. 14. 


natod woman. And shall become a child, that 
is He shall become the child of Mary. And 
thus Mary stands next to Jesus in the divine 
decree, as the chosen medium of the incarna- 
tion. For of all the elect, St. Paul has said, 
" He chose us in Christ before the constitution 
of the world, that we should be holy and blame- 
less in His sight in charity. Who predestined 
us to the adoption of children through Jesus 
Christ, unto Himself, according to the purpose 
of His will, to the praise and glory of His 
grace, by which He made us accepted in His 
beloved Son." And, if thus He chose His 
adopted children in Christ, ere the world was 
constituted ; first, and before them all, He chose 
and decreed the existence and the graces of that 
mother, through whom the Son should come to 
bring this grace. She is THE WOMAN, proclaim- 
ed at the fall, as destined to crush the head of 
Satan. She is THE VIRGIN, who shall conceive 
and bring forth a Son, made known to Isaias. 
She is the new thing upon the earth, A WOMAN 
shall encircle man; who is made known to 
Jeremias. And a series of illustrious women, 
instruments in God's hands for the delivery of 
His people, foreshadow her coming. Such are 
Judith, Debora and Esther. Such also, in a 
more special sense, is the one true and immacu- 
late spouse of the true Wisdom, whom the Holy 
Ghost celebrates in the Canticle of Solomon. 
Such also, though more imperfectly, were those 
women, who miraculously brought forth sons 
that were the figures of Christ. 

To the Prophet Jeremias, God said : " Be- 
fore I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, 


/ knew thee ; and before tliou earnest forth 
from, the womb, I sanctified thee, and made 
thee a prophet unto the nations" To Mary 
therefore, far more could He say : " Before I 
created thee I knew thee, and gave thee for a 
Mother unto my Son." 

Since Mary then is included in the decree of 
the Incarnation, as the means for its accomplish- 
ment ; and since, in the decree as it concerns 
her, must be of course included those gifts of 
nature and of grace, which adorn and prepare 
her for a maternity so sacred ; she stands forth 
next to her divine Son, and as the second of 
creatures in the counsel of God. 

From eternity, then, does God contemplate 
Jesus as the Son of Mary, and Mary as the 
Mother of Jesus : His Son, as the head of man; 
and Mary, as the head of woman. 

It is to illustrate this doctrine that in her 
offices for the Festivals of the Blessed Virgin, 
the Church employs those passages in the Sapi- 
ential Books, which speak literally of the Son of 
God, the Eternal Wisdom, and of the decree of 
His incarnation ; and applies them in the spirit 
of accommodation, to the Mother of Our Lord. 
She contemplates Mary as the chosen one, in 
whose person God has everlastingly contem- 
plated the bringing about of the human concep- 
tion of His Son. 

Thus, from the eighth chapter of Proverbs, 
we say of Mary by accommodation, as of Jesus 
literally: " The Lord possessed me in the be- 
ginning of His ways, before He made anything 
from the beginning. The depths were not as 
yet, and I was already conceived." 


And so from the twenty-fourth chapter of 
Ecclesiasticus, which, as Petavius shows,* the 
majority of the fathers interpret of the Incarna- 
tion : " Then the Creator of. all things gave 
His orders, and said to me : And He that made 
me, rested in my tabernacle. And He said 
to me : Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thy 
inheritance in Israel) and take root in my elect. 
From the beginning, and before the world, was 
I created, and unto the ivorld to come I shall 
not cease to be, and in the holy dwelling-place 
I have ministered before Him. And so was I 
established in Sion, and in the portion of my 
God His inheritance, and my abode is in the 
full assembly of the saints and I per- 
fumed my dwelling as stornx, and galbanum, 
and onyx and aloes, and as the frankincense 

not cut, and my odour is as the purest balm 

....I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, 
and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me 
is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me 
is all hope of life and of virtue. Come to me 
all you that desire me, and be filled of my 
fruits. For my Spirit is sweet as honey, and 
my inheritance above honey and the honey- 
comb. My memory is unto everlasting genera- 

If the saints then are elected in Jesus before 
the world was constituted, Mary is pre-elected 
in Jesus. If the saints are chosen for His 
glory, Mary is chosen as the way by which He 
came to purchase that glory. If these graces 
are predestined to them, the graces of Mary are 
more wonderfully predestined that she may 

Petav. De Trinitate L. ii. sec. 3. 


bring the Author of grace into the world. And 
God contemplates from the depths of His eter- 
nity that Son, who is born into the world for 
the redemption of His creature, and that 
Mother, of whose virgin purity He is conceived 
of the Holy Ghost. And thus before the ages, 
in the contemplation of God, was Mary the pre- 
destined Mother of Jesus. 




THE angels had not, at their creation, the 
beatifying vision of God. That glory was won 
by them in a state of grace. This implies, that 
their first state was a state of faith and of trial. 
To quote the famous allusion of St. Augustin, 
" They had the evening light, but not the morn- 
ing light." That they had a knowledge through 
faith of the Blessed Trinity is the doctrine of all 
the divines. And, as St. Thomas says, " What 
the prophets knew of the mysteries of grace 
through revelation was revealed in a more ex- 
cellent way to the angels."* 

But was the Eternal Counsel on the Mystery 
of the Incarnation in any manner communi- 
cated to them ? That they adored the First-be- 
gotten at His entering the world we know ; but 
had they been expecting this event from the 
first ? Taking the whole context of the passage 
in the first chapter of the First Epistle of St. 
Peter, it seems evident that it was on the mys- 
tery of Christ that the angels longed to look ; 
which implies a knowledge begun but not per- 
fected ; a knowledge through faith but not 
through insight of that sacred mystery. 

Most certainly, the " primacy" of the God in- 

* Sum. p. i. q. 57, a. I. 


carnate, and His glorious reign over angels as 
over men, is constantly asserted by St. Paul. And 
the victory of the God incarnate over Satan and 
his sin as over Adam and his sin, is the most 
exalted end in which their creation resulted. 
For by that victory, which was the work of 
eternal wisdom, as the creation was the work of 
infinite power, not only are the angels who by 
grace stood firm re-established, and man re- 
deemed ; but the greatest of glories, that was pos- 
sible in created beings, was given to God, and both 
the angels and saints clothed with the splendour 
thereof. Hence St. Paul says of Christ, that, 
God has appointed Him the heir of all things;* 
and that, He is the head of principalities and 
powers J as well as of men. And that it has 
well pleased the Father, through Him to re- 
concile all things unto Himself, making peace 
through the blood of His cross, both as to the 
things that are on earth, and the things that 
are in heaven.^ And He made the angels, and 
powers and virtues subject to Him. The 
angels, therefore, were most deeply interested 
in the mystery of the incarnation. And though 
St. Paul seems to say that it was made known 
to them through the preaching of the Church, 
yet this cannot refer to their knowledge as 
derived from the Eternal counsel of God, but 
only to its realization and the fruits it brought 
forth in time. For the angels administered 
towards its fulfilment under the Old Testament, 
and proclaimed it from heaven before it was 
preached in the Church. 

* Heb. i. 2. t Ibid. 

J Coloss. i. 20. i St. Peter, iii. 22. 


St. Ignatius in his Epistle to the Smyrneans 
intimates, that the angels cannot be saved with- 
out faith in the blood of Christ. He says : 
" Let no man deceive himself: both the things 
which are in heaven, and the glorious angels 
and princes, whether visible or invisible, if they 
believe not in the blood of Christ, it is to their 
condemnation." And St. Jerom, commenting 
on the Ephesians, says, that " The Son of God 
descended to the lowest regions of the earth, 
and ascended above all the Heavens, not only 
to fulfil the law and the prophets, but also to 
execute certain hidden dispensations which are 
known only to Him and to the Father. Nor 
can we know after what manner the blood of 
Christ has profited the angels. But yet we 
cannot be ignorant that it did profit them."* 

St. Bernard, in his famous exposition of the 
Canticles, asks, how Christ could be redemption 
to the angels. And he briefly answers. " He 
who raised up man from his fall, gave to the 
angel who stood that he might not fall. Thus 
He rescued man from captivity and protected 
the angel from captivity. And in that way was 
He equally a redemption to both, delivering the 
one and preserving the other. Thus it is plain 
that Christ the Lord was redemption to the 
holy angels, as He was their justice and wisdom 
and sanctification."f 

Supposing, then, that the angels had a know- 
ledge of the incarnation, and that they read in 
the head of the book, of that wondrous counsel, 
in which they were so deeply concerned ; then 

St. Jerom. in Eph. L. 2. 
t Serm. 22. in Cuiiticu. 


there follows another question, what was their 
trial, and by what occasion did Satan fall ? It 
is clear from the Sacred Scriptures, that the 
beginning of his fall was pride and ambition. 
But many of the Fathers teach that he com- 
pleted his perdition through envy of the prero- 
gatives of man.* He envied his being made 
in the image of God, he envied his dominion 
over the creation, and above all, he envied man 
in the head and prince of men, our Lord Jesus 
Christ. And thus he accumulated new crimes 
upon his head. 

As the angels are of a nobler creation than 
man by nature, it is difficult to suppose that 
Satan envied man, except with reference to the 
incarnation of the Son of God. But when he 
saw that man, born of woman, and made a little 
lower than the angels, was made one with God 
by personal union with the Eternal Son of God ; 
it is easy to comprehend how, full of pride and 
ambition, he should burst forth in envy, rage 
and hatred, at the revelation of so wonderful 
a mystery. 

Hence great theologians of very different 
schools, such as Scotus, John of St. Thomas 
the celebrated Dominican, and Suarez, with 
other divines, maintain, that the object of 
Satan's envy was the hypostatic union of God 
with man in Jesus ;f that he accounted him- 

* For this opinion St. Justin, Tryp. c. 24. St. Tren. 3, 33, and 4, 44. 
Tertul. De Patientia, c. 5, and St. Cyp. De Zelo et Livore are cited by 
Klee. And Petavius further cites, St. Greg. Nyssa. Catech. c. 5. St. 
Augustin, as citing St. Cyp- L. 4, De Baptismo, c. 8, and Tract. 5, hi Joan. 
Also Methodius as cited by St. Epiph. Hseres 64., and Anastatius the 
Sinaite. Lactantius says, that Satan envied the Son of God. 

t Scotus, In. 2. Sent. disp. 5. 9. Billuart, De Angelis. disp. 5. s. 3. 
cites John of St. Thomas, and calls it the probable opinion of a most 


self more worthy to be one with God, and to 
sit at His right hand, than any human creature ; 
that he refused to confess and adore the rays* 
tery of humility ; and to recognize the Son of 
God, as made of a woman, made under the law, 
and made a little lower than the angels, for 
the sufferings of death. 

When our Lord says of the devil, that lie 
was a manslayer from the beginning, and 
stood not in the truth ; He seems to refer to the 
time of his fall, and to intimate that he was 
a manslayer at that same beginning, when he 
stood not in the truth. This is the interpretation 
of Abbot Rupert, who concludes that by his sin 
he assailed the God made man. The whole of 
the two first chapters of St. Paul to the He- 
brews bear strongly on this subject. The 
Apostle asks : " To which of the angels hath 
God said, at any time, Thou art my Son, to- 
day have I begotten thee ? And again, when 
He bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, 
He saith: And let all the Angels of God 
adore Him." And again he asks : " To which 
of the angels said He at any time, Sit thou on 
my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy 
footstool ?" And he shows that God would not 
subject the world to come unto the angels, but 
that in Jesus He raised up man from a con- 
dition lower than the angels, and put all 
things under his feet, and through His death 
destroyed the empire of death, tJiat is to say, 
the devil For nowhere doth He take hold 

eminent divine. Suarez, L. 7. De Angelis, c. 13. He cites Vigner, Jacob 
of Valentia, Catherinus and Naclantius, as absolutely of this opinion, and 
others as holding it probable. Petavius, who is against it, cites Scribo- 
nius as for it. 


of the angels; but of the seed of Abraham He 
taketh hold. The whole of these two chapters 
corne out with a vast increase of depth and 
intelligence, if we read them under the suppo- 
sition, that angels actually aspired to that seat 
which Jesus holds. 

The Sacred Scriptures give us three most 
terrible descriptions of the fall of Satan ; and 
in each instance that fall is made a type of the 
fall of some great earthly power, which has 
arisen under Satan's inspiration. In each of 
the descriptions the type is constantly mingled 
with the antitype, and we see Satan blended 
with his earthly instrument. Thus, in the four- 
teenth chapter of Isaias, the fall of Satan is 
made the type of the fall of the King of Baby- 
lon. " How art thou fallen from Heaven, 
Lucifer, ivho didst risv in the morning? 
How art thou fallen to the earth, that didst 
wound the nations? And thou saidst in thy 
heart, I will ascend into heaven, 1 ^vill exalt 
my throne above the stars of God, I will sit 
in the mountain of the covenant, in the sides 
of the North. I will ascend above the height 
of the clouds, I will be like to the Most High. 
But yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, into 
the depth of the pit" This description indicates 
an ambition to be placed at the head of the 
creation, that is, in the place of Jesus, rather 
than in that of the Eternal Father. 

In the twenty-third chapter of Ezechiel, Satan 
is described as the type of the fall of the king 
of Tyre. And the pride of Satan is more fully 
brought out than his ambition in the picture. 
" Thou wast the seal of resemblance, full of 


wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou wast in 
the pleasure of the paradise of God; every 

precious stone was thy covering Thou 

wast a cherub stretching oat thy wings, and 
covering, and I set thee in the holy mountain 
of God, thou hast walked in the midst of the 
stones of fire. TJiou wast perfect in thy ways 
from the day of thy creation, until iniquity was 

found in thee And 1 cast thee out from 

the mountain of God, and destroyed thee, O 
covering Cherub, out of the midst of the stones 
of fire. And thy heart was lifted up in thy 
beauty : and thou hast lost thy wisdom in thy 
beauty, I have cast thee to the ground." 

For brevity's sake I have omitted those parts 
in the two descriptions which literally apply to 
one or other of the kings. But the most re- 
markable description of Satan's overthrow is 
that which is depicted in the twelfth chapter of 
the Apocalypse. Here the fall of Satan is the 
type of the fall of Antichrist, and the first and 
the last great apostacies are brought together. 
In this sublime and terrific vision, Satan is 
revealed to us as the first Antichrist, and as the 
inspirer and mover of the second. And the 
combat in Heaven is put forth as the type of 
the final combat on earth. Amidst that won- 
drous commotion in Heaven, where Michael and 
his angels are arrayed against Satan and his 
angels, the Blessed Mother of God stands radi- 
ant in divine light with the Son of God incar- 
nate in her womb. She is the central figure 
about which those great events take their rise. 
Satan wars against her and seeks to devour her 
Son. Her Son is born, and sits on the throne 


of God, and Satan is cast out from Heaven, 
to continue his war upon the earth. In this 
description, whilst Satan is the figure of Anti- 
christ, the Blessed Virgin is the figure of the 
Church. For as Mary bore Christ, so the 
Church bears Christ in the -bringing forth of 
His members. And as Antichrist wages war 
against the Church impelled by Satan ; so Satan 
impels him to the combat against the Church as 
the continuance of his own war against Jesus, 
and against " the woman." We shall therefore 
find in this, as in all applications of types and 
figures, a constant mingling of two literal senses, 
and each part, literal in one sense, becomes figu- 
rative when applied to the counterpart. Parts 
are literal as describing Satan; parts as describ- 
ing Antichrist. Parts, again are literal as de- 
scribing the Blessed Virgin and her Child; 
parts, as describing the Church and her children. 
The description properly commences with the 
last verse of the eleventh chapter."' 

"And the temple of God was opened in 
Heaven; and the ark of His testament was 
seen in His temple, and there were lightnings, 
and voices, and an earthquake, and great 

St. John begins with what we may call the 
composition of place. He carries us to the 
holy of holies to the highest heaven. Jesus 
is the Testament, and Mary the ark of the 
Testament. She is thus designated by the 
fathers;f as in her Litany she is called, the 

* In the exposition of this chapter I chiefly follow Cornelius a Lapide. 

t Vid. Passaglia De Immac. Concep. sec. 3, c. 2, art. z, who cites 
ten fathers. 


Ark of the Covenant. St. John Damascen calls 
her the animated ark of the living God. 

u And a great sign* appeared in Heaven" 

What sign is this? Isaias says, " The Lord 
Himself shall give you a sign. Behold a Vir- 
gin shall conceive and bring forth a Son" 
And this Virgin is the sign which St. John 
beholds, but he beholds her confronted to 
Satan, in the very hour of his perdition. For 
who is this sign ? " A woman clothed with 
the sun, and the moon beneath her feet '', and on 
her head a crown of twelve stars. And she 
being with child, cried travailing in birth, and 
in pain to be delivered" 

The woman, so resplendent in her glory, is, 
and can be, but the Blessed Mother of God, 
for her child is no sooner born than He sits on 
the throne of God. But the cries and pains 
are those of the Church, who is in labour with 
her children.f 

" And there appeared another sign in Hea- 
ven : and behold a great red dragon, having 
seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads 
seven diadems. And hu tail drew the third 
part of the stars of heaven and cast them on the 
earth ; and the dragon stood before the woman, 
who was ready to be delivered, that when she 
should be delivered, he might devour her Son. 
And she brought forth a man child, who was to 

So Kenrick translates literally instead of wonder in the Donai Version. 

t St. Ambrose, Richardus, Primasius, and others, cited by & Lapide, 
understand this as literally the Blessed Virgin. "This woman," says 
Kenrirk, " is most correctly conceived to be the Blessed Virgin, since shft 
is spoken of as the mother of the child, whom the dragon sought to 
destroy.'' And he quotes Moses Stiiart.a Protestant, as not altogether 
objecting to it, though startled at the magnificence of the description. 


rule the nations with an iron rod; and her Son 
was taken up to the throne of God" 

The iron rod, for the ruling of the nations, is 
the attribute of Christ in the second Psalm, and 
in the second chapter of the Apocalypse. Only- 
God can sit upon the throne of God. 

" And the woman fled into the wilderness, 
where she had a place prepared by God, that 
there they should feed her a thousand two hun- 
dred and sixty days." 

Satan inspired Herod to seek the death of 
the Child, and Mary saved Him by her flight 
into Egypt. And the Church is dispersed, and 
her children take flight to the deserts in the 
great persecution. 

" And there was a great battle fought in 
Heaven: Michael and his angels fought with 
the dragon, and the dragon fought and his 
angels ; and they prevailed not, neither was 
their place found any more in Heaven. And 
that great red dragon was cast out, the old 
serpent, who is called the devil, and Satan, 
who seduceih the whole world, and he was cast 
forth unto the earth, and his angels were 
thrown down with him" 

This, as De Sacy remarks, is a literal descrip- 
tion of the fall of Satan and his angels. For he 
fell from Heaven but once, and then was over- 
thrown, as Rupert observes, not by the angels, 
but by the power of that most holy birth. Hence, 
in the seventy- fourth Psalm, this victory is 
sung : " God is our king before all ages ; He 
hath wrought salvation in the midst of the 

earth Thou hast broken the heads of the 

dragon" The angels who stood faithful, "stood 


with the Son of God, and fought with Him by 
His strength and with their faith. Their great 
leader's cry was, Michael ! that is, Who is like 
to God ? And it became his glorious designa- 
tion. And Satan, which means the adversary, 
became the designation of his enemy. 

Then the angels burst out into the song of 
victory, and proclaim that divine power by 
whose grace they have won their triumph. 

" And I heard a loud voice in Heaven, say- 
ing : Now is come salvation, and .strength, and 
the kingdom of our God, and the power of If is 
Christ : because the accuser of our brethren is 
cast forth, ivho accused them before our God 
day and night. And they overcame him by the 
blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their 
testimony, and they loved not their lives unto 

Here Satan's tempting of the angels, and his 
trying of men, are blended in one common de- 
scription ; and the heavenly and the earthly vic- 
tory are equally ascribed to the power of the 
Son of God, and to the testimony which is 
given unto Christ. The trial of the angels is 
over, and they pass to their reward. 

The remainder of the vision is of the earthly 
conflict. But, at the close, in a brief word St. 
John resumes both the earthly and the heavenly 
combat, for in both does Satan stand confronted 
in his enmity against the Mother of our Lord. 

if And the dragon was angry with the woman, 
and went to make war with the rest of her seed." 

But the rest of her seed are the members of 
her Son, who are the true children of Abraham, 
all sons in Christ and joint heirs with God. 


And here there comes out into clear expression 
that enmity hetween the Mother of God and 
Satan, which began in Heaven, where her office 
was first revealed, and has ever since been con- 
tinued on earth. 

The sin of Satan then began in gigantic 
pride, went on to ambition, and brought on his 
final destruction through his envy and hatred 
of the Son of God, incarnate of the Virgin 
Mary. Hence his deadly hatred of that meek 
and holy Mother, who is the created cause from 
which his woes have sprung. She is the pre- 
destined one, through whom his conqueror shall 
always foil his schemes, confounding the strong 
one by the weakness of woman. For his de- 
struction is the work of wisdom, not of power, 
and wisdom works its ends through the weak- 
est of instruments. Hence, no sooner has Satan 
seduced Eve, than God declares to him, " / will 
put enmity between thee and THE WOMAN, and 
she shall crush thy head" As in fact she had 
already crushed his head. For Mary, through 
Jesus, crushed the heads of the dragon, as 
Hesychius, the priest of Jerusalem, observes. 
" She who was incorrupt and immaculate in body 
and soul, crushed the head of the most perfidi- 
ous dragon," observes St. Ephraim. 

In the fourth of the four sermons on the 
Creed, amongst the works of St. Augustin, 
which, if it be not of that Father, ^s of his 
times and appeals to the popular belief, the 
sense of the vision which we have been con- 
templating is summed up in the following 
words : " In the Apocalypse of St. John, this 
is written, that the dragon stood in the sight 


of the woman, who was about to be delivered, 
that when she had been delivered, he might 
devour her son. No one of you is ignorant 
that that dragon was the devil, and that that 
woman signified the Virgin Mary, who, in her 
integrity, brought forth our head in His integ- 
rity, and who shows forth in herself a figure 
of the holy Church ; for as she brought forth 
her Son, and remained a virgin, so the Church 
brings forth at all times her members, whilst 
she loses not virginity." 

Two motives have led me to explain this 
revelation at some length. The glorious form 
under which the Blessed Mother of God appears 
to St. John, as the sign in Heaven, radiant with 
grace, and having the dragon subject beneath her 
feet, is the symbol under which her Immaculate 
Conception is always represented to the faith- 
ful. This must have an especial meaning ; and 
that meaning we have endeavoured to bring out. 
That representation will now remind us, that 
Mary was pre-ordained before the world to be the 
Mother of God, and equally pre-ordained to a 
most beautiful nature, and a most resplendent 
grace that she was revealed to the angels as the 
living ark of the living God, and as clothed with 
the light of the Sun of Justice that Satan, the 
old serpent, who is called the devil, raised up 
from beneath her feet, the first rebellion and 
apostacy in Heaven, against her Divine Son and 
against herself that eternal enmity and war was 
then proclaimed by Satan against her, as against 
her Son. And that, as the most pure and 
immaculate sign, and the animated organ of the 


Incarnation of the Son of God, she overthrew 
that first heresy in Heaven, as she has done so 
many since on earth. 




BORN, alas ! in sin, and conceived in iniquity, 
the effects of that original contamination adhere 
to us, and leave us not but with our earthly 
life. Morally one with the head from which we 
sprang, and of one body with that first prevari- 
cator ; no sooner has our disordered flesh ob- 
tained existence from its disordered cause ; and 
no sooner has our soul obtained its lodging in 
that now animated but troubled germ, than it is 
overwhelmed and brought under the dominion 
of its sensuous and blind confusion. Void of 
grace, to which it has no right, and infused 
into a vessel already defiled, as St. Augustine 
expresses it, the soul contracts defilement there- 
from, and becomes the victim of the rebellious 
commotions of the flesh, in which it has taken 
its abode. And without aid from that divine 
power by which alone it could resist the deadly 
venom, the child becomes the prey of Satan 
even in its mother's womb. Thus, they who give 
life to our bodies, kill our souls. Nor can all 
the efforts of their after love eradicate the mis- 
chjef which that death from the beginning 
brings upon us. 

The mother brings forth her blighted child 
in pain and anguish. Its first accents are cries 


and weepings, for it is a child of wrath, and 
the voice of God exclaims upon it, " What 
is born of flesh is flesh, you must be born 
again" Yes, the divine life is extinct in that 
little creature, made for union with God. It 
breathes but a sensuous and an animal life. Its 
faculties are dreadfully enfeebled; ignorance 
reigns in the intellect ; the will is gathered upon 
that little self as on its centre ; and sense reigns 
through all its powers. It is shut up within the 
bounds of fallen nature, as the snail within its 
slimy shell. No angel is its companion. No 
saint is its patron. Jesus is not with such a 
child as yet. It is shut out from God. " What 
is born of flesh is flesh, you must be born 
again." By that blessed baptism comes that 
blessed birth. The waters of life flow in upon 
the soul, Satan is expelled, and within it Jesus 
seals with His eternal light a living image of 
Himself. That infant is thenceforth a Chris- 
tian, bears the Christian name, is a child of 
eternal life. Yet how deep are the scars left 
by that primal wound. The grace of Christ 
holds possession of the soul, but the body is still 
unregenerate as before. It bears the penalties 
of its origin in every mortal sense, and vein, and 
nerve, and fibre. It agitates the soul with its 
passions, it sways her about with its fickleness, 
it blinds her with its lusts, it torments her with 
its petulance, it worries her with its incessant 
wants and cravings, it urges her to all manner 
of selfishness and pride, it is a prey to its own 
sensibilities and ever-varying moods, and is 
scourged by a thousand diseases. And thus 
that man, whom God designed to be spiritual in 


the flesh, is ever inclining to be carnal in his 
mind. And if he lend his mind to his inclina- 
tions, that mind itself deserts his soul, goes over 
to the domestic enemy, is drawn into its seduc- 
tions, becomes its terrible ally, and the soul 
once more becomes the enchained and blindfold 
victim of the flesh. And the Apostle says of 
such a one, " The carnal man cannot see the 
things which are of the Spirit of God." 

But let us return to the regenerate and just 
soul. We have seen, and alas ! we have all expe- 
rienced, in what a frail and unsafe vessel even 
the just man carries his treasure. The worm of 
corruption is in his members, the venom of the 
serpent infects them ; and however it may 
smoulder under the ashes of our clay, the fuel of 
concupiscence is there, and ever ready to burst 
into lurid flame, as occasion breathes upon it. 
There is only one security, and that is, with a 
most humble heart to mistrust our nature, and 
vigorously by the spirit to mortify and bring it 
into subjection, and to wait with patience for 
the day when Christ shall reform our earthly 
bodies, and make them like unto His own most 
glorious body. 

Who of men has the grace and illumination of 
St. Paul ? and yet listen to the description which 
he draws of himself: "/ know that there dwell- 
eth not in me, that is to say, in my flesh, that 
which is good. For to will is present with me, 
but to accomplish that which is good I find 
not. For the good which I will, I do not, but 
the evil which I will not, that I do. I find 
then a law, that when I have a will to do good, 
evil is present with me. For I am delighted 


with the law of God, according to the inward 
man. But I see another law in my members, 
fighting against the law of my mind, and cap- 
tivating me in the law of sin that is in my 
members. Unhappy man that I am, ivho shall 
deliver me from the body of this death. The 
grace of God by Jesus Christ our Lord. There- 
fore I myself, with the mind, serve the laiv of 
God; but, with the flesh, the law of sin." 

Such, then, were the effects of original sin, 
which, after so long and sharp a combat, re- 
mained in that most holy servant of God, that 
vessel of election, St. Paul. Can the faith of 
Jesus permit us to regard His own Blessed 
Mother in such a light, even for a moment? 
Did the Holy Ghost commingle His spirit with 
such a flesh ? Did Jesus take flesh from a being 
like this ? 

How mysterious is the law of this transmis- 
sion from our origin ! How unsearchable ! yet 
how plain a proof that we are not made now as 
God first made us. Were some spirit of another 
sphere to hear for the first time that in this 
planet, on which his gaze was fixed, dwelt 
beings made to God's image who multiplied 
their kind ; struck with the gift of so sublime a 
power, would he not conclude that the exercise 
of a privilege so like unto creation, must be the 
most exalted hour in the existence of those 
beings ? Alas ! for the fall. We can only close 
our lips in silence ; and then exclaim, " What is 
born of flesh is flesh. For, behold I was con- 
ceived in iniquity, and in sin did my mother 
conceive me." But this is not the conception 
from which that Blessed one should be formed 


who shall give her flesh unto the Son of God. 
Grace may remove the sin, and blot out the culpa- 
bility, as day removes the darkness of the night ; 
but as, when the night is gone, it leaves effects 
behind the cold, the fogs, the frosts, and the 
keen blasts, so, after original sin has departed, 
there remain debilities, habits, depraved emo- 
tions, penalties, and, above all, that irreparable 
loss of original innocence, which, like lost virgi- 
nity, can never be restored. However atoned 
for, that dishonour rests on the soul like the 
stain on the escutcheon, which no after deeds 
can succeed in erasing. And what is that stain, 
but that the supernatural image of God had 
been blotted out, but that the soul had been 
beforetimes disinherited of life, but that she had 
been hated of God, but that, in the language of 
Scripture, she had been " a vessel of contu- 
mely" and of the " mass of corruption ?" 

And if our faith will not allow that the 
Blessed Mary ever contracted actual sin, though 
but venial, though but the dust which touches 
the beauty of the soul without wounding deeply, 
etill less destroying, its charity ; if, as St. Thomas 
says : " She would not have been a suitable 
Mother of God if she had sinned at any time, 
because, as in Proverbs it is written, ' the glory 
of the children are their parents,' consequently 
the ignominy of the mother is reflected on the 
son."'* If then neither our faith nor our piety 
will allow, that those motes and specks of sin 
fell ever on the face of Mary, though quickly 
brushed away, how can we suppose that she 

3. P. q- 27- a. 4- 


Lad been entirely covered and penetrated with 
sin of another kind, as with a pestilential 
leprosy ? 

To sum up the nature of this sin, in the 
words of the Council of Trent, " Original sin, 
which in its origin is one, and is transfused by 
propagation, not by imitation, is in all and 
belongs to each one" But is so in each of all 
who contract it, that they are immediately " de- 
filed, lose their innocence, are made by nature 
children of wrath, become the servants of 
sin, and are brought under the power of the 

Let us now raise up our minds towards that 
infinite purity of God. Let us invoke His 
blessed light, that it may purify our vision, 
and give the clear truth unto our sight. The 
most pure spirit flies from sin, and will not 
dwell in a soul that is subject to sin. Let us 
contemplate now the eternal decree of the In- 
carnation, the holiest and purest of created 
mysteries. Let us consider that decree which 
follows so close upon it, and is bound up with 
it, that decree which provides a Mother for 
the Eternal Son of God. Let us consider, that 
if, as St. Paul says, Christ took the likeness 
of sinful flesh, it was yet without sin, and that, 
by an infinite distance, He was separated from 
sinners. And then can we say, that the God, 
who had the power, had not the will to make 
His mother sinless and immaculate? When 
we consider that Jesus and Mary for nine 
months were one flesh ; can we say this ? 
When we consider, that for thirty years the 
will of Mary was the law of Jesus, can we say 


it? When we consider the compass of God's 
power, and the height of His great plan, of 
which that Incarnation wrought in Mary, is 
the most unfathomable mystery ; when we con- 
sider how in accomplishing this deepest of mys- 
teries, God surrounds it with exceptions which 
rise above all nature's laws ; when we consider 
that spirit of preparation, by which God turns 
nature so often from its course, to ripen the 
hour of its fulfilment ; when we consider that 
the law of gradation needs the crowning of per- 
fection in woman as in man, and that the accu- 
mulation of all the possible excellence of which 
woman is capable, must be looked for in a 
Mother of God, if there can be such a person, 
and that Mary actually is that person ; when 
we consider, once more, the infinite holiness of 
Jesus, and His filial consanguinity with Mary ; 
what other conclusion is open to us, than , that 
He who could make His Mother immaculate, 
did not abandon her to His enemy, but in the 
view of His own merits did make her most pure, 
and full of grace, and immaculate ? Above all, 
when we consider that the Eternal Word did, 
in the splendour of the Most Holy, mirror 
forth to the contemplation of the Father 
and of the Holy Ghost, and of Himself, and 
that from an eternity, the express form and 
image of His predestined Mother, can we say 
that He contemplated her as defiled, as unclean, 
as a child of wrath, as the servant of sin, as 
brought under the power of the devil? 

But after a moment of sin she is cleansed 
and sanctified, say certain objectors. But if 
we grant to sin and the devil but that one 


moment, we give up everything, and abandon 
her stainless honour. She comes to God from 
the hands of Satan, and gives to Jesus what 
once was Satan's. But for a moment ! With 
God the first moments are supreme moments. 
Lucifer fell from God in a moment, and with but 
a thought. And of what moment was that mo- 
ment ! For sin is measured not by time, but 
by depth of defilement. And better is it to be 
an exile from God for eternity, than to be the 
sinner of that moment. Would not Mary have 
preferred to have been neither the Virgin, nor 
the Blessed One, nor the Mother of God, nor 
the Queen of angels and saints, than to have 
been for that moment graceless, stripped of 
innocence, hateful to God, and defiled with sin? 
On that one moment are all those treasures 
staked, which alone are most dear and precious 
to the Virgin Mother of God. Say anything 
else of Mary, but do not say that she was ever 
accursed, this only could grieve her beyond 
all, that she had ever been corrupted and de- 

But Christ alone is born without man's inter- 
vention. Mary is a child of Adam, and by 
nature a child of wrath. Where, then, shall a 
refuge be found her from the deluge of sin ? 
Where but in the arms of her divine Son ? 
Where but in His infinite power to save and 
redeem? Where but in the inexhaustible 
treasury of His grace? The law of transmis- 
sion is accomplished ere the soul has joined the 
body. And the cause of original sin, which 
comes with the body, is not a necessitating cause, 
for it remains in that body still, after that baptism 


has repelled it from the soul. It is that pre- 
vious absence of grace from the soul which 
leaves her a prey to the corrupting flesh. But 
let the soul of Mary be fall of grace, when her 
union with the body is accomplished, and she is 
not only preserved, but all laws are satisfied. 
And He who in the face of the universal law- 
gave sanctity to the soul of John the Baptist, 
before he was born, could give sanctity to the 
soul of Mary at the moment of its conception. 

But in that case was Mary a child of redemp- 
tion ? Did her Son die for her salvation ? Was 
she the offspring of His glorious' blood ? Most 
surely was she redeemed by His blood. Her 
redemption was the very masterpiece of His 
redeeming wisdom. It presents one instance 
more, the very noblest, of that law of accumu- 
lation of excellence, as the one absolutely per- 
fect work of redemption. For to enter upon 
the celebrated argument of Scotus, our Lord is 
the universal Redeemer and most perfect Medi- 
ator. Must we not, then, look for some most 
complete and exquisite example of His mediato- 
rial and redeeming powers? an example of 
such surpassing excellence that a greater cannot 
be imagined ? And if He has not wrought that 
absolutely perfect redemption in His Blessed 
Mother, of whom alone it is predicated, has He 
yet put forth in any case His full powers of 
redemption ? 

He who prevents the disease is the greater 
physician than he who cures it after it has been 
contracted. He is the greater redeemer who 

Says the debt that it may not be incurred, than 
e who pays it after it has fallen on the debtor. 


It is a greater good to save us from sin that we 
may not sin, than to save us from sin after we 
have sinned. It is a more blessed mediation to 
prevent us lest we should offend the majesty of 
God, than to appease His anger after we have 
offended. And so St. Bernard says of the 
angels who stood, that Christ saved them by 
His grace, that they might not fall, and was in 
that way their Redeemer. 

And if Our Lord exercised a greater power 
of redemption over Mary than over others, by 
preserving her from actual sin, He exercised 
His greatest power by preserving her from 
original sin. And if, as our Lord said to Simon, 
more love is owing where more has been for- 
given, Mary was bound in more love to Jesus, 
as she had received from His hands that great- 
est of forgivenesses in the greatest of redemp- 
tions. When David said to God, *' Thou hast 
redeemed me from the malignant sword" the 
sword of Goliath had not struck the Prophet 
King, but it had threatened him, and God had 
preserved him from its stroke. 

But if Jesus saved His Mother so completely 
from sin that she never felt its power, it was 
not His blessed will to exempt her from the 
temporal penalties of Adam. She bore her 
sorrows as He bore His. She died, as He also 
died. These were not the fruits of sin in the 
Mother, as they were not in the Son ; they 
were the occasions of her virtues and the 
sources of her merits. It is the likeness of her 
divine Son, which we must everywhere expect 
to find in her. And strange, indeed, would it 
have been, if sharing more largely than others 


in ITis graces and His innocence, she had not 
also shared more largely in His sufferings. Let 
no one, then, account those sufferings for much 
which God may send him for his sins and for 
his security, when he reflects that the innocent 
Jesus was the Man of Sorrows, and the innocent 
Mary the Mother of dolours. 




WHEN we recal the Paradise which God 
planted, and His wisdom beautified, as a palace 
for man's reception; of serenest climate, of ex- 
quisite harmony with that order which reigned 
in the new-created man, its possessor ; its ver- 
dure, and variety of every good tree, and flower, 
and fruit, its noble streams and fountains, and 
the mystic tree of life in the midst ; the tribes 
of beasts, strong without terrors, or swift and 
graceful without fears ; the birds in their feather- 
ed beauty, and none rapacious amongst them ; 
the fishes sparkling through the waters, but all 
in peace with one another and even the subtle 
serpents wreathing their lythe forms in the 
playful light, undegraded as yet, and free from 
venom : when we contemplate that glorious 
Eden, reflection of God's own beauty in the 
sweetest light of His wisdom, and our father, 
Adam, walking free in his domain, and our 
innocent mother by his side, both free in grace, 
and free in their command of the creation ; and 
God's divine love more warm, more pure, more 
radiant than the light, reposing within their 
hearts, and stirring their souls to adoration of 
their Creator ; do we not heave our breasts in 
sighs, and our eyes are they not moistened with 


sorrow, that our mother should have listened to 
that seducer until the voice of God's love was 
heard no more ? And when we turn from her 
to the world she blighted, painted over though 
it be with countless fascinations and seductions, 
and look beneath the surface on that long array 
of loathsome and revolting crimes, that conflict 
in nature, that rebellion in man, those countless 
shapes of death and disease, all issuing from the 
touch of that forbidden fruit ; either grace is 
not in us, or our heads must bow down under 
the shame, our hearts shrink beneath the woe, 
which our father, too facile to the fallen Eve, 
has brought upon us. 

But as grace begins to stir within our sinking 
hearts, we lift up our eyes once more, as new life 
from a better Father dawns upon us, and we see 
a better mother is by His side. But what do 
we behold ! instead of Paradise, a barren moun- 
tain top, strewn with sculls and bones, and 
planted there another tree, leafless and lifeless, 
but hanging on its arms the Father of our life, 
nailed, torn with the scourge, and ignominiously 
dying. And beside the new Adam stands the 
new Eve, erect in innocence, but transfixed with 
the sword of grief. Must we not, then, cry out 
with the Church, " Oh happy fault of Adam, 
which has deserved so great and blessed a 
Redeemer ?" 

We saw the fall in Heaven, and Satan raging 
with envy against our nature, which the Son of 
God had raised to union with Himself in the pre- 
destined womb of Mary, that it might sit by the 
eternal Throne. He is cast out upon the earth, 
and comes raging with his infernal malice 


against mankind. But it is not Jesus and 
Mary, it is Adam and Eve, that he finds by the 
tree of forbidden knowledge. Yet no sooner 
have they lost their innocence and grace, no 
sooner have they felt their shame, and covered 
up their misery with the frail leaves, than Jesus 
is there, and Mary also. " For they heard the 
VOICE of the Lord God walking in Paradise at 
the afternoon air." That voice was the Eternal 
Word of the Father. And the voice of God 
said to the Serpent " I will put enmities be- 
tween thee and THE WOMAN, and between thy 
seed and HER seed, SHE shall crush thy head, 
and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel." Ter- 
rible rebuke ! as if God had said, Weak as is 
her nature, thou hast not conquered woman. 
There is one predestined of whom Eve is but 
the likeness, and in her and her seed thou hast 
no part. If thou knowest ought of her, yet shalt 
thou know in time to come far more. Thou 
shalt wage deadly strife, thou and thy children, 
against her and her Child, but thou shalt never 
prevail against her. In seducing her likeness 
thou hast thought to triumph over me ; but, 
mystery of weakness and of lowliness as she is, 
through my power she shall crush thy head. 

The mystery of redemption is the master- 
piece of the divine wisdom. The very things by 
which Satan wrought the fall, God employs to 
discomfit him, and to bring about the reparation, 
foiling him ever with his own weapons. And 
so the Church sings, " Such was the order God 
appointed in the work of our salvation, coun- 
termining the schemes of Satan with deeper 
schemes, and drawing the remedy from the 


source whence came the wound."* So He took 
the flesh of Adam and the likeness of his sin, 
that He might destroy sin in His flesh. So He 
marked the tree of ignominy, that He might 
produce from it the fruit of glory. So He took 
up death in Himself that He might dissolve the 
work of death. And so He took a second Eve, 
that in her He might dissolve the work of the 
primal Eve ; and that as the first was vanquish- 
ed by Satan, in the second He might vanquish 
Satan. And hence, in the Canticle, the Holy 
Ghost says to the spouse : " Under the apple- 
tree I raised thee up, there thy mother was cor- 
rupted, there she was defiled that bore thee." 

Mary resembles Eve, then, in all that con- 
cerned her innocence, whilst she is the contrast 
of Eve in all that concerned her sin. And the 
Fathers of the Church have rivalled each other 
in drawing out this resemblance and this con- 
trast. They compare the original innocence 
and purity of Mary with the original innocence 
and purity of Eve. They show that Adam was 
formed of the earth, whilst it was yet virginal 
and immaculate, before God had rained on it, 
or man had broken it, or compressed it with 
labour; and that before human blood had flowed 
upon it, or crime had defiled it, and before it 
had been opened for the burial of man, God 
formed our parent from its chaste and all pure 
soil. I have put together the words of many 
Fathers in this short sentence. They then show, 
that Christ was not formed from an origin less 
pure, less virginal, less immaculate, or less free 

Hymn, Pange lingua gloriosi. 


from the curse, when He was formed from the 
Virgin Mary. 

St. Andrew, the Apostle, to whose words we 
shall refer later, says that, " As Adam was 
formed from immaculate earth, therefore it 
was necessary that the perfect man should be 
formed of an immaculate Virgin." We heard 
St. Irena3us, the depositary of the traditions of 
St. John, speaking the same language in a for- 
mer chapter. He draws the comparison between 
Adam, formed by the hand of God, of that pure 
and virginal soil, and the Eternal Word reform- 
ing Adam in Himself from the virginal Mary. 
He then asks, why God did not take earth 
again to form Jesus, and replies, that it became 
Him to be formed from that which He came to 
save, that He might have its likeness.* Tertul- 
lian uses the same language, and applies to 
Mary the words of the Psalmist, " The earth 
shall give its benedictions"^ The same idea 
is put forth by a host of the Fathers. They 
compare Mary also with Paradise, before sin 
was know there. They point out how Adam was 
formed of that earth alone, and Christ of Mary 
alone. And that, as that earth at the time was 
unaccursed, so Mary was unaccursed. That there 
germinated in her, neither the thorns of original, 
nor the briars of actual sin. " She was an 
earth," says St. John Damascen, "not cursed 
like the former earth, whose fruits were brist- 
ling with thorns and briars, but on whom was 

* St. Iren. Haeres. L. 3. 
t De Carne Christi, c. 17. and Contra Judaeos, c. 13. 


the blessing of the Lord."* " She was a lily 
amongst thorns," says Theodotus of Ancyra, 
" she was ignorant of the miseries of Eve."f 
" She was not infected by the poisonous blasts 
of the serpent," says a writer amongst the 
works of Origen. And the Eastern Church 
chaunts in her ritual hymns, " admirable 
flower, who, from that Eden out of which death 
was diffused into the universe, did breathe the 
odour of immortality into the children of Eve."J 
George of Nicomedia says, that through Mary 
" the image of God that had been vitiated in 
us, returned to its beauty, and through her we 
throw off the clothing of skins which were made 
for sin, and put on the robe of light." 

She is compared with the tree of life, as 
contrasted with that tree from which Eve 
plucked the fruit of corruption. And the 
Eastern Church but resumes the traditional 
preaching of her Fathers, when she sings : 
" Thou art made for us the new Paradise, 
wherein the tree of life is planted, by eating 
of which they are restored to new life, who 
through eating fell, innocent Mother of 

The wife of Adam had not conceived her 
first born child, and was a mother in no other 
than a prophetic sense ; and they had but 
heard the consoling word from God, that the 
woman's seed should crush the head of their 
destroyer, when Adam called her by the name 

* 2. Nativ. B. M. V. 

t Oral. In Sanct. Dei Genitricem. 

t Eucolog. in officio elevationis panis. 

} Orat. in Deip. Present. 

li Menolog. die 8 April. 


of Eve, because she was the mother of all the 
living. Now of the children of Eve, the first- 
born slew the second, envious that he had done 
what was pleasing to God, and after a terrible 
life came himself to a terrible death. How then 
could Adam call Eve the mother of the living, 
who became the mother of the dead, unless in 
figure, and in hope of a better mother to come ? 
He looked to that true Eve, the Woman, and 
the Mother, who should bring forth life, and 
crush the serpent's head. And St. Peter Chry- 
sologus thus compares this second with the 
first Eve: "She now is truly the mother of 
the living through grace, who stood forth the 
mother of the dying through nature.""' 

But much deeper is the contrast between the 
souls of the two mothers of mankind. And the 
Fathers point out how Eve lost all things for us by 
the free action and choice, of her will ; and how 
Mary gained all things for us by the free choice 
and submission of her will. Hence they set 
the faith of Mary against the infidelity of Eve, 
and the obedience of Mary against the rebellion 
of Eve ; and the innocence and immaculate 
purity of Mary, against the thorough-going 
sin and defilement of Eve; and thence they 
show, how completely the interior disposition 
and spirit of the one were the means through 
which came the remedy that healed the miseries 
occasioned by the other. Gabriel explained 
Mary's only difficulties, and God waited for the 
consent of her will before He accomplished the 
Incarnation of His Son. Upon her will, at that 

* Serm. De Annunciat. B. V. 


moment, the coming of our salvation depended. 
It is this free co-operation of Mary which ex- 
plains so much of the language of the Fathers 
concerning her. Let us again listen to St. 
IrenaDus, for he is a very early, and a great 
authority. He says : 

"As Eve became, by her disobedience, the 
cause of death to herself and the entire human 
race, so Mary, who, though a virgin had yet a 
predestined husband, was by her obedience 
made the cause of salvation to herself and the 

entire human race Thus the knot of Eve's 

disobedience was untied through Mary's obedi- 
ence. For, what the virgin Eve tied fast by 
unbelief, that the Virgin Mary untied by 
faith."-- And St. Chrysostom says: "The 
Serpent seduced Eve, Mary listened and con- 
sented to Gabriel. But the seduction of Eve 
brought death, the consent of Mary brought 
forth a Saviour to the world. That was re- 
stored through Mary, which, through Eve, had 
perished."f St. Epiphanius says, that Eve fore- 
shadowed Mary, " who received that she should 
be figuratively called the Mother of the living. 
For the former was called the mother of the 
living even after her prevarication, when she 
heard that word, dust thou art, and into dust 
thou slialt return. This was certainly to be 
wondered at, that after her prevarication she 
should obtain so great an addition to her name. 
But if we consider what lies beneath our senses, 
the whole of our earthly race is derived from 

* St. Iren. L. 3. c 33. 
t St. Chrys. Horn. De Interdictione Arboris. 


that first Eve. But from Mary truly and in- 
deed was life itself brought into the world, so 
that she both brought forth life, and became the 
mother of them who have life."* 

No sooner, then, does our first mother fall 
than our second mother appears. Satan seduces 
Eve, and God upholds the woman before him, 
who shall resist him to his overthrow. In Para- 
dise, the Almighty proclaims a lasting enmity 
between those two. Satan may lie in wait for 
the new Eve, but God has set her foot upon his 
head, and threatens him with fears of her and 
of her seed. But if she is to be his prey, why 
should Satan fear her ? If enmity is already 
placed between them by the eternal decree, 
which resounded through the trees of Paradise ; 
if that decree resounded for all future time, 1 
will place enmity between thee and THE WOMAN ; 
could they ever be friends? could Mary ever 
be his subject and his slave ? If in the per- 
petual conflict between her and the enemy of 
man, she is to crush his head, not only through 
her divine offspring, but also by her own en- 
mity against him, how can this be explained 
except by an origin as well as by a life in which 
the devil had no part? The new Adam can 
yield in nothing that is good and pure to the 
old Adam; and therefore, if the father of the 
human race is formed of the immaculate, so the 
Redeemer of the human race is formed of the 
Immaculate. Eve came from the side of sinless 
Adam, and Jesus from the womb of sinless 
Mary. He would not have His predestined 

* St. Epiph. Hseres. 78. 


Mother of a less holy beginning than the 
mother of Cain. 

Let us devoutly, then, address to her the 
words of the holy patriarch of Constantinople, 
St. Germanus: 

"Hail, most pleasant and rational Paradise 
of God ! who to-day art planted by the right 
hand of the Almighty, in the East of His de- 
lights, where thou presentest unto Him the 
flowering lily and the unfading rose. To us, 
who, in the West of death, drink in the pesti- 
lential bitterness so pernicious to our souls, thou 
art the Paradise where flourishes the Tree of 
Life, whose fruit whoever tastes, gains immor- 
tality This alone dost thou allege : How 

can this be, for I know not man ? But in as 
far as thou dost surpass the heavenly ones in 
glory, and the earthly ones in modesty, so far 
greater art thou than this implies. For, be- 
yond all that can be said or thought of, thy 
mind, pure as it is, and free from stain, is closed 
to any approach of the least vestige or shadow 
of inordinate or less worthy emotion. Thou 
art the earthly Paradise which God planted, 
and out of which He gave command unto 
the Cherubim, that those laws thou didst re- 
ceive from nature, they should cultivate to 
sanctity ; and that in a circle round about thee 
they should wield the fiery sword, and should 
protect thee from the snares of the deceitful 
serpent. The Holy Ghost shall descend in 
thee, and the power of the Most High shall 
overshadow thee. When Eve conversed in 
Paradise, the tortuous spirit, with his many 
wiles, insinuated himself into her conversation, 


under the winding folds of the serpent : but, 
in thee, the most holy and upright Spirit de- 
scended. For, as it is sung in the Canticles, 
indeed the upright love thee."* 

* Orat. in Deip. Nativ. apud Combefls, 




A celebrated divine'"' has made the remark, 
that, though some persons wonder that the 
Evangelists are silent on the parents of the 
Blessed Virgin, and have left tradition to record 
what we know respecting them, yet was this 
arranged with an especial design by the provi- 
dence of God. For the Holy Spirit would not 
fix our attention upon her, as descended of 
parents from whom she would, in nature's 
course, have received the transmission of origi- 
nal sin ; but He would concentrate our atten- 
tion upon her as the Mother of God, lest by 
too vivid an idea of her human parentage, we 
might be led away from the thought of her 
election as the Mother of God being so great a 
profit to her, that in the matter of contracting 
original sin, her birth of human parents was 
of less weight, than the fact of her destination 
to that divine maternity. 

Yet the early Christians were piously curious 
as to the natural origin of the Blessed Mary. 
There was evidently a disposition to regard 
that origin as having been in some way super- 
natural. The question occupied the heretics as 

* Ambrosius Catharinus. Enarrat. in cap. iii. Gen. 


well as the orthodox. The apocryphal books 
go to extravagant lengths in their history of her 
parents, Joachim and Anna. The Collyridians 
supposed her to have been born of a virgin, and 
offered her a species of divine worship, which 
was at once condemned. Whilst the Mani- 
cheans, if we are to believe St. Thomas,* and 
Capponi,f believed her to be an angel incarnate. 
Each heresy strove to exalt her in its own way, 
whilst each fell far below her true dignity, and 
the actual greatness of -her origin. 

SS. Joachim and Anna are extolled as the 
parents of the Blessed Virgin, by St. Hippolytus 
the martyr,! tyy St. Epiphanius, St. Gregory of 
JSTyssa,|| Andrew of Jerusalem,*! St. Germanus 
of Constantinople,** Nicephorus,tf St. Andrew 
of Crete4t George of Nicomedia, St. John 
Damascen,|||| and by others of the Fathers. 
Their festival was celebrated at an early period 
both in the Eastern and the Western Church. 

St. Hippolytus, the martyr, says, that in the 
reign of Cleopatra and Cosoparis, and before 
the reign of Herod, the son of Antipater, there 
were three sisters of Bethlehem, daughters of 
Mathan and Mary. The first was called Mary, 
the second Sobe, and the third Anna. Mary 
married in Bethlehem, and was the mother of 

* St. Thorn, in 3 P. d. 4. q. 2. t Capponi in 3 P. q. 29. 

t Apud Niceph. L. i. c. 7. ? Epiph. Haeres. 78. 

|| Greg. Nyss. Orat. de Sanct. Nativ. Christi. 
f Andrew of Jer. De Divinit. Deip. ** German. De Oblat. Maria. 

ft Niceph. Hist. L. i. c. 7. 

it Andr. Cret. de Divinit. Deip. ? Georg. Nicomed. Orat. 4. 

III! S. J. Damasc. L. iv. De Fide Orthodox, et Orat. de Nativ. B. M. 


Salome ; Sobe also married in Bethlehem, and 
was the mother of Elizabeth ; Anna, the third 
sister, was married in Galilee, and brought forth 
Mary, the Mother of God, of whom Christ was 
born to us.* This would explain the origin of 
those who, after the Jewish custom, are called 
the brethren of our Lord, though but relatives 
in a more distant degree ; and we are not 
required to suppose that St. Anna had any 
other children besides the Blessed Virgin. 

That great presages should have preceded 
the human conception of the Blessed Virgin, we 
must be prepared to expect, when we reflect on 
those which preceded so many of the saints of 
the Old Testament. For who can think so 
abjectly and unworthily of God as to suppose 
that He would do greater things for His ser- 
vants than for His Mother, for the friends of 
the spouse than for the spouse. Hence nearly 
all the Fathers last cited, describe Joachim and 
Anna as advanced in age, and childless, and 
past all hope of children. And that whilst they 
were apart, and each in prayer, Joachim on a 
mountain in the desert, says St. Epiphani'^, 
professedly quoting traditions, and Anna in her 
garden, an angel announced to them the con- 
ception of Mary. f St. John Damascen asks, 
why the Blessed Virgin should be born of a 
sterile mother. Clearly, he replies, for this 
reason : " That He who alone was new beneath 

* Apud Niceph. L. ii. c. 3. 

f On all this subject, see the Apparatus of Mansi and Georgi to the 
Annals of Baronius, and Mazzola, De B. M. Virgine. St. Epiphanius, 
St. Gerrnanus, and St. John Damascen, speak of the apparition of the 


the sun, and the head of prodigies, might 
open the way for Himself through prodigies, 
and that the order of things might ascend 
from the lowest to the highest by degrees."* 
As Rupert observes, all those in the Scriptures, 
who were born of sterile mothers, were great 
personages, who present most admirable simili- 
tudes in the course of their lives and actions. 
And as St. John Damascen again observes : 
"Anna, who brought forth God's Mother, was 
not to yield to any of those mothers who had 
been made illustrious." f 

St. Epiphanius says : " Her parents were 
Joachim and Anna, who in their lives pleas- 
ed God, and germinated that fruit, the holy 
Virgin Mary, at once the temple and the 
Mother of God. And these three, Joachim, 
Anna, and Mary, offered openly a sacrifice of 
praise to the Trinity. But Joachim is inter- 
preted the preparation of the Lord, because 
from him was prepared the Lord's temple, that 
is the Virgin. Anna, again, is interpreted 
grace, because Joachim and Anna received 
grace, that after their continual prayers they 
might germinate such fruit, as they received 
in the holy Virgin. For Joachim prayed on 
the mountain, and Anna in her garden. But 
Anna having conceived, brought forth that hea- 
venly and cherubic throne, the holy child 
Mary." J Hence, the Church says, in the col- 
lect on the Feast of St. Anna : " God, who 

* S. J. Damas. Horn. i. in Nativ. B. V. 

t St. J. Damasc. L. iv. de Fid. 
J St. Epiph. De Laudibus, B. V. M. apud Martene, t. vii. 


didst confer the grace on Blessed Anna, that she 
might be worthy to become the mother of her 
who brought forth Thy Son," &c. 

When Slary had reached the age of three 
years, her parents presented her in the temple, 
where, like the child Samuel, she abode for 
eleven years, after which she was delivered by 
the priests to the care of Joseph. * 

If then the first, or active conception of 
Mary, was not immaculate, it was at least 
miraculous. And the organization of that body 
which was to receive a soul so very beautiful, so 
very pure, and full of grace, was not left to the 
common course of nature, but was brought about 
by the divine intervention. But it is not of 
this conception of St. Anna, admirable and mira- 
culous as it is, that we speak, when we contem- 
plate the Immaculate Conception of the Mother 
of God, but it is of that divine conception 
which we are about to consider in the following 

There is however an objection floating in the 
atmosphere of our country, which must here be 
brought to examination. If it be supposed ne- 
cessary that our Lord's Mother should be of 
immaculate origin, why, it is asked, are not St. 
Anna, and all her ancestors, included in a like 
exemption from the common misery ? This ob- 
jection could only arise from a sensuous appre- 
hension of a most spiritual mystery. It is 
closely allied with Calvin's doctrine, that the 
just propagate the just. There is forgetfulness 

* Niceph. citinp Evodius, patriarch of Antioch, L. II. c. 3. St. Greg. 
Nyss. De Christi Natal. S. J. Damasc. De Fid. Orth. c. 13. St. German. 
Constant. Seriu. De Presentations. S. And. Cret. De S. Deip. and others. 


of the fact, that the body is not regenerate 
until the resurrection. Or there is a notion 
latent, that souls are transmitted as well as 
bodies. St. Augustine met that difficulty when 
he said : " You wonder how a sinner can be 
born of a just man. But you do not consider 
that the wild olive springs from the garden 
olive tree ; nor do you take note that the straw 
springs with the wheat, though not planted with 
it. And the cause that the just man cannot be 
the author of the just is this, that he generates 
not from the source, whence he receives regene- 
ration, but from the source whence he was gene- 

Mary is immaculate from God's grace, through 
her soul, and not from her parents, through the 
body. Our Lord takes not flesh from Anna, 
but from Mary. She alone is the Mother of 
God, and therefore is she alone excepted from 
the general law, and preserved immaculate. 

* Senn. in Verb. Apostoli, c. 16. 




THE Morning Star is about to rise upon the 
night which overspreads the fallen world with 
its deep shadows. The East already warms, 
and the glorious Sun of Justice sends His rays 
before His coming. That beautiful Star pre- 
cedes Him on His way. It is full of His light, 
and is the reflection of His purity. Oh Lucifer ! 
no longer art thou the brinyer of the light, but 
the prince and ruler of the darkness. And now 
thy kingdom is invaded by the dawning day, 
and Mary is the bringer of the light. The 
instant is come for that elected creature to 
appear, who, of a daughter of Eve, is made the 
Mother of God. 

Chosen in the counsels of eternity : associated 
with the Son of God from the beginning of the 
sacred plan: revealed to the angels with her 
Son : assailed by the proud and aspiring Lucifer 
for her lowliness, because of Him who lifts up 
the lowly: revered by the angelic hosts as 
their Queen, and the animated temple of their 
Lord : proclaimed to our first parents as the 
antagonist of their destroyer, and as destined 
with her Son to crush the serpent's head : 
contemplated and preached by the prophets, as 
THE WOMAN and THE VIRGIN, who was to bring 


into the world its long-desired deliverer : pre- 
figured by the noblest women of Israel : re- 
nowned in the tradition of the Gentiles through 
their Sybils, and sung by their poets : daughter 
of Abraham, of Juda, and of David of a 
lineage which God had upheld and protected 
for more ages than the Christian Church yet 
numbers, and so illustrious only because it is 
destined to terminate in her ; closing the Old 
Testament and opening the New : the repairer 
of woman and the Mother of salvation to man- 
kind : raised to an office, to a dignity, and an 
alliance with her God, which, next to her 
divine Son, makes her one and unapproach- 
able in excellence : above the angels, yea, above 
the Seraphs, for which of them can say to God, 
Thou art my Son? this Mother of God is 
about to pass, from God's eternal counsel, to 
created life. 

The Father contemplates the forming of the 
fairest of His daughters, the Son considers the 
graces which are suited to His Mother, the 
Holy Ghost prepares to sanctify the chosen 
spouse whom His Spirit shall search and His 
power overshadow. 

It was on the sixth day, and after He had 
prepared the world for the residence of man, 
that out of the deep counsels of His Most 
Blessed Trinity, the Almighty spoke the final 
word of creation Let us make man. He 
formed Adam from the innocent earth He 
drew Eve from his innocent side He graced 
them with pure and holy souls. 

For four thousand years have their descend- 
ants multiplied in sin, sprung from the disobe- 


diencc of that guilty pair, till they have covered 
the earth with a terrible history. And to each 
germ that buds from that bitter root, by virtue 
of His primal gift and promise, God owes an 
immortal soul. But no sooner does a soul 
come to animate the new offshoot from that old 
stock of Adam, than it is overmastered by the 
contamination which flows for ever onwards from 
corrupted source. 

But a bud is springing from the root of Jesse ; 
and the poison of the serpent shall not infect 
it, nor shall his foul breathings blight its 
beauty. The Adorable Trinity is about to 
pronounce the creative word Let the Mother 
of God be made. 

To her aged parents, past all hope of off- 
spring, an Angel comes ; amidst their devotions, 
he proclaims them the chosen organs of her 
miraculous beginning. And the fleshly frame, 
which shall give flesh to the living God, com- 
mences its existence. A soul, bright as the 
morning star, and full of holiest grace, is 
breathed by God into that tender and exquisite 
frame. And the secret fire that lingered there, 
at the very entrance of that free and holy soul, 
is quenched, and the flesh brought into subjec- 
tion and order. And thus, from the first instant 
of her animated existence, the Mother of God is 
most pure, most holy, and most immaculate. 
And she offers immaculate praise to her Creator 
and Redeemer. Jesus, who had so often antici- 
pated His work for the sanctification of His 
elect, made one great anticipation more for the 
sake of His own Incarnation. He drew the 
most costly of the gems of grace, from the in- 


exhaustible treasury of His Cross, and wrought 
the most perfect of redemptions in the Imma- 
culate Conception of His Mother. And since 
the human race began, in this chosen one alone 
did God see a soul escape from His creative 
hands, that was neither caught in the cords 
of Adam, nor ensnared in the bonds of death. 
So from the Ark, our father Noah sent forth 
the raven from his hands, but it joined the 
floating putrefaction, and nourished thereby a 
degraded life ; whilst the dove returned into 
his bosom, and brought him in its innocent beak 
the olive branch of peace. 

To the true dove, His one true spouse, the 
Holy Spirit sings that Canticle, through the 
choirs of the Church, which He rehearsed to 
the bride of Solomon. " One is my dove, my 
perfect one is but one, the only one of her 
mother, the chosen of her that bore her. 

11 Thou art all fair, my love, and there is 
not a spot in thee. 

" As the lily amongst thorns, so is my love 
amongst the daughters. 

" Under the apple-tree I raised thee up, there 
was thy mother corrupted : there was she de- 
filed who bore thee. 

" My spouse is as an enclosed garden, and a 
sea led fo u n tain. 

" Put me as a seal upon thy heart, and a 
seal upon thy arm; for love is strong as death : 
jealousy is hard as hell, the lamps thereof are 
fire and flames. Many ivaters cannot quench 
charity, neither can the floods drown it." 

Clearly the spouse of Solomon is but a figure ; 
and the Holy Ghost describes another Spouse, 


who is one, who is immaculate, who is the 
Spouse of the Eternal Wisdom, and the Mother 
of the King of our Salvation. And if the 
Church sings also of herself in this inspired 
Canticle ; of all her members, she sings first of 
her fairest and first-born. Of all the redeemed 
within her gates, she sings first of the holiest 
and the most perfectly redeemed. The Church 
knows well of whom she sings when she chaunts 
this inspired description in the sacred offices of 
Mary. Of all her sons and daughters she sings 
first and most of her who, like the Church, is 
the Mother of all the living. Of her the Scrip- 
ture sings, who is the "fairest amongst women, 
and comely as Jerusalem, and who is terrible 
to Satan as an army set in array." 




As no controversy had ever arisen with re- 
ference to the Immaculate Conception of the 
Mother of God before the age of St. Bernard, 
we cannot expect to find a scientific statement 
on the subject in the Fathers. Yet on careful 
investigation the whole mind of the Oriental 
Church is found to have been imbued with it 
from the earliest times. And when, in the 
Western Church, the great controversy with the 
Pelagians led to a thorough sifting of the sub- 
ject of original sin, it drew from St. Augustine, 
the great Doctor of grace, those remarkable 
declarations, which exempt the Blessed Virgin 
from all sin.* In examining the testimonies of 
the Fathers, it becomes undeniable that whilst 
many of them speak in the sense of the Imma- 
culate Conception, not a single one of their 
number has positively said that Mary had ever 
contracted original sin. Whilst at the same 
time the ambiguous language, which has been so 

* Those who would see the tradition drawn out in all its copiousness, 
must take in hand the extensive work of Passaplia, whick lias just 
issued from the Roman press, but of which I have only had a glance at 
the first volume. It is entitled, De Immaculate Deiparce Semper Virginia 
Conceptu Commentarim, and comprises three volumes in folio. In this 
chapter I am much indebted to the beautitul treatise of Abbot Gueran- 


carefully collected and cited by the opponents of 
the mystery, from a certain number of them, 
resolves itself into perfect accordance with the 
doctrine of her exemption from sin, the moment 
that doctrine is rightly apprehended and distin- 
guished from what does not come under its defi- 

The first testimony is that which the Apostle 
St. Andrew gives in his profession of faith before 
the Proconsul Egeus, as recorded in the cele- 
brated letter of the priests of Patras, which 
relates his martyrdom. " The first man brought 
in death through the tree of prevarication, 
hence it was necessary, that as death had been 
brought in, it should, through the tree of the 
Passion, be driven out. And because the first 
man was created of immaculate earth, it was 
necessary that the perfect man should be born 
of an immaculate Virgin, through whose means 
the Son of God, who had before created man, 
might repair that eternal life which had been 
lost through Adam."* 

The celebrated comparison between the im- 
maculate earth and the immaculate Virgin 
became, as we have seen, a common expression 
with the Fathers. 

St. Dionysius, Patriarch of Alexandria, and 
one of the most famous doctors of the third 
century, thus speaks of the relations between 
the Mother of God and her divine Son : 
" There are many mothers ; but one, and one 

* The authenticity of this letter is asserted by Lumper, Gallandi, Mor- 
celli, &c. And the Protestant VVoog, who first published the Greek, 
has vindicated it against its assailants. Gallandi observes that it WiUJ 
used very early in the Offices of the Church. 


only Virgin daughter of life, who brought 
forth the living Word, who exists of Himself, 
uncreated and Creator."* 

Again, of that divine power which formed 
Mary for her destination, the same saint says : 
" Christ dwelt not in a servant, but in His 
holy tabernacle, not made with hands, Mary, 
the Mother of God. In her our King, the King 
of glory, was made High Priest, and abideth for 
ever."f Further on, the same holy Bishop 
says : " Neither was our supreme High Priest 
ordained by the hands of man, nor was His 
tabernacle fabricated by men, but that most 
praiseworthy tabernacle of God, Mary, the Vir- 
gin, and Mother of God, was firmly set by the 
Holy Ghost, and protected by the power of the 
Most High." St. Dionysius also compares tho 
Blessed Virgin to the garden of delights : 
" The Only-begotten God, the Word, descended 
from Heaven, and was borne in the womb, and 
came forth from the virginal Paradise which 
possessed all things."} 

The celebrated comparison between Eve, 
whilst yet immaculate and incorrupt, that is to 
say, not subject to original sin, and the Bless- 
ed Virgin, is drawn out by St. Justin. St. 
Irenaeus,|| Tertullian,1F Julian Firmicus,** St. 

* Epist. Advers. Paulum Samosat. 

t Ibid. Respons. ad quaest. 7. 

I Ibid. Respons. ad qutest. 10. 

St. Justin. Diolog. cum Tryphone. 

I; St. Iren. Cont. Hares. L iii. c. 22. 

f Tertull. De Carne Christ!, c. 17. 
** Jul. Finnic. De errore prophan. relig. c. 26. 


Cyril of Jerusalem,* and St. Epiphanius.f As 
St. Justin is the first of the series, from whose 
Dialogue with Trypho I cite the passage, where, 
speaking of the Divine "Word of the Father, he 
says : " He was made from a Virgin, that the 
way by which disobedience took its beginning 
from the serpent, by the same 'it might receive 
its destruction. For whilst Eve was yet a Vir- 
gin and incorrupt, having conceived the words 
spoken to her by the serpent, she brought 
forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin 
Mary, when she had received faith and joy, as 
Gabriel announced to her the glad message, 
that the Spirit of the Lord should descend in 
her, and the power oi^the Most High should 

overshadow her, gave answer: Be it done 

to me according to Thy word" 

In the same spirit, and with a like implied 
exemption from the curse, St. Hippolytus, Bishop 
and Martyr, says, speaking first of our Saviour: 
" He was the ark formed of incorruptible 
wood. For by this is signified that His taber- 
nacle was exempt from putridity and corrup- 
tion, which brought forth no corruption or sin. 
But the Lord was exempt from sin, oj wood not 
obnoxious to corruption according to man ; 
that is, of the Virgin and of the Holy Ghost, 
covered within and without with the pure gold 
of the word of God."| 

Origen, or the ancient author of the Homilies 
attributed to him, thus speaks of the Mother of 
God : " This Virgin Mother of the Only-be- 
gotten of God, is called Mary, worthy of God, 

* St. Cyril. Jerusal. Catech. 12. t St. Epiph. llseres. 78. 

J Oral, hi illud, Dorninus pascit me. Bibl. Tatruni Gailundi, t. ii. 


immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one." 
The author then addresses St. Joseph : " Re- 
ceive her as the heavenly treasure confided to 
thee, as the riches of the Deity, as most com- 
plete sanctity, as perfect justice She con- 
ceives not of the desire of the fathers, who is 
neither deceived by the persuasion of the serpent, 
nor infected with his poisonous breathings." 
He then says : " Christ needs not a father on 
earth, for He has an incorruptible Father in 
Heaven. He needs not a mother in Heaven, for 
He has a chaste and immaculate mother on 
earth, this most Blessed Virgin Mary." 

In the fourth century, St. Ephrem extolled 
the Blessed Virgin in streams of the sweetest 
and most melodious eloquence. It would re- 
quire a volume by itself to cite all the beautiful 
things which he has said of her. In a prayer 
to the Blessed Mother of God he calls her : 
"Immaculate and uncontaminated, incorrupt and 
thoroughly chaste, and a virgin most estranged 
from every soil and stain of sin, the Spouse of 

God and our Lady inviolate, integral, and 

manifestly the chaste and pure Virgin Mother 

of God more holy than the Seraphim, and 

beyond comparison more glorious than the rest 
of the supernal hosts.""* Again, St. Ephrem 
calls her : " Immaculate, most immaculate, 
most pure, the exceedingly new and divine 
gift, the absolutely immaculate, the divine seat 
of God, the Lady ever blessed, the price of the 
redemption of Eve, fountain of grace, the sealed 
fountain of the Holy Ghost, the most divine 

In Oral, ad Sanct. Dei Genitricem. 


Temple, the pure seat of God, who crushed the 
head of the most wicked dragon, who was ever 

in body as in mind entire and immaculate 

the holy tabernacle which the spiritual Beseleel 
built up."* 

Much more might be cited from the writings 
of the great Doctor of the Syrian Church, 
which, like what we have given, is utterly in- 
consistent with the idea of a sinful and corrupt 
origin in the Mother of God. 

In the same century St. Ambrose says, ad- 
dressing our Saviour on these words of the 
Psalmist, " / have gone astray like a sheep, 
seek thou thy servant. Seek thou thy sheep, 
not through servants or mercenaries, but through 
thyself. Receive me in that flesh which fell in 
Adam ; receive me, not from Sarah, but from 
Mary ; that the virgin, from whom thou receiv- 
est me, may be incorrupt, a virgin integral, 
through grace, from every stain of sin."f 

\Ve will now come to the fifth century, and 
first, to St. Augustine. Refuting Pelagius, who 
had maintained that a considerable number of 
persons had lived on earth absolutely without 
sin ; St. Augustine, in his book on Nature and 
Grace, replied, that all the just had truly known 
sin : " Except," he says, " the holy Virgin 
Mary, of whom, for the honour of the Lord, 
I will have no question whatever when sin is 
concerned. For whence can we know the 
measure of grace conferred on her to van- 
quish sin on every side, on her who deserved 

* Ibid. 
f Serm. ^^. in Tsulm 118. 


to conceive and bring forth Him Who, it is 
evident, had no sin ?" t St. Augustine here 
speaks professedly of actual sin, but he lays 
down principles which equally exclude every 
idea of original sin from Mary, in whom, for 
the honour of the Lord, he will not hear of 
sin. And the grace she received was given her 
to vanquish sin on every side, and therefore 
on the side of her origin. 

In a controversy with Julian, the disciple of 
Pelagius, St. Augustine had to defend the doc- 
trine of original sin, which Julian denied. And 
a remarkable incident arises in the course of 
the controversy, as connected with our subject. 
Julian makes a popular appeal to the pious 
belief of the faithful respecting the Blessed 
Virgin, as if St. Augustine, 'by his doctrine of 
original sin, had included Mary in it. And St. 
Augustine had to meet the charge. Julian 
said : " Jovinian opposed Ambrose, but com- 
pared with you, he deserves to be acquitted. 
He destroyed the virginity of Mary by sub- 
jecting her to the common laws of child-bearing, 
but you transfer Mary to the devil, by subject* 
ing her to the common condition of birth." 
To this charge St. Augustine replies : " We do 
not transfer Mary to the devil by the condition 
of her birth, for this reason, that that condition 
is dissolved by the grace of her new birth."f 

This incident shows how St. Augustine and 
those of his time shrunk back from the idea 
that Mary was ever abandoned to the devil, or 

* De Natura et Gratia, c. 36. 
f Opus Imperfec. contra Julian. L. 4. c. 122. 


was a child of sin. And as the sin in question 
between St. Augustine and Julian was original 
sin, it is clear that St. Augustine's intention was 
to free himself from the charge of having trans- 
ferred Mary with the rest of mankind to Satan 
through that sin. And by her new birth, or 
regeneration, he could not refer to baptism in 
her case, but to the grace of redemption in her 
passive conception. 

In a work entitled A Treatise on the Five 
Heresies,* long attributed to St. Augustine, but 
supposed by the Benedictine editors to have 
been composed soon after his death, our Lord is 
introduced as reproaching the Manicheans in 
these words : " I made the Mother of whom I 
should be born. I prepared and cleansed the 
way for my journey. She whom thou despisest, 
Manichean, is my mother, but she is made by 
my hand. If I could be defiled when I made 
her, I could be defiled when I was born of her." 
Here, as in several of the ancients, Mary is 
spoken of as having had a special creation. 
Nature was cleansed in her when the flesh was 

St. Maximin, of Turin, says : " Truly Mary- 
was a dwelling fit for Christ, not because of her 
habit of body, but because of original grace."^ 

St. Peter Chrysologus, Archbishop of Raven- 
na, in one of his celebrated discourses, says : - 
" The angel took not the Virgin from Joseph, 
but gave her to Christ, to whom she was pledged 
in the womb, when she was made."J 

* Inter opera S. Augustini t. 8. 

t Horn. v. Ante Natale Domini. 

J Serm. 140. De Annunciat. B. M. V. 


Theodotus of Ancyra, in his discourse to the 
Fathers of the Council of Ephesus, calls the 
Mother of God : " The innocent Virgin, with- 
out spot, void of all culpability, uncontaminated, 
holy in body and soul, as a lily springing 
amongst thorns, untaught the ills of Eve, wor- 
thy of the Creator, who gave her to us by His 

St. Proclus, in his discourse contained in the 
acts of that Council, amongst many things of a 
like nature, says : " As He formed her without 
any stain of her own, so He proceeded from her 
contracting no stain." And he introduces the 
Son of God, addressing His Mother in these 
words : " I shall not in any way injure my 
uncreated majesty, for I shall dwell in a taber- 
nacle which was created by myself."f 

I shall conclude the testimonies from the fifth 
century, with the following beautiful passage 
from the Hymn before meat of Prudentius, 
" Hence came the enmity of old between the 
serpent and man, that inextinguishable feud, 
that now the viper prostrate beneath the Wo- 
man's feet lies crushed and trampled on. For 
the Virgin, who obtained grace to bring forth 
God, hath charmed away all his poisons ; and 
driven to hide himself in the grass, green as 
himself, he there coiled up in his folds, torpidly 
vomits forth his now harmless venom." 

For brevity's sake I will pass over the inter- 
vening testimonies, but in the eighth century 
there is a passage in the Synodal Letter of 
Theodore, Patriarch of Jerusalem, which was 

* Gallandi, t. ix. t Ibid. 


unanimously approved in the seventh General 
Council, and is too remarkable to be omitted. 
This prelate says : " She is truly the Mother 
of God, and virgin before and after bearing, 
and she was created in a condition more sublime 
and glorious than that of all natures, whether 
intelligible or sensible."* 

Twelve years later the Council of Frankfort, 
whilst refuting the heresy of Felix of Urgel, 
gives expression to the same doctrine under 
another form. The Fathers of this Council 
have to repel the assertion, that Christ is the 
mere adopted Son of God, and they thus re- 
vive the ancient forms of speech regarding the 
Blessed Virgin : " But we would hear this 
from you. Adam, the first father of the human 
race, who was created of earth, which was still 
virgin, was he created in a free or in a slavish 
condition ? If a slave, how then was he the 
image of God ? If free, why should not Christ, 
formed of the Virgin, be also free ? For of a 
better earth, of an earth animate and immacu- 
late, was He made man by the operation of the 
Holy Ghost."t 

At the beginning of the same century St. 
Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, had 
said that Mary was " truly elect, and superior 
to all, not by the altitude of lofty structures, 
but as excelling all in the greatness and purity 
of sublime and divine virtues, and having no 
affinity with sin whatever.'^ 

And St. Paschasius Radbert, in his book On 

* Labb. Concil. t. vii. f Labb. t. vli. 

J Marracci in S. German! Mariali. 


the Perpetual Virginity and Child-birth of 
Mary, whilst denying that the flesh of Mary 
was a flesh of sin, adduces these remarks in the 
course of his argument : " It is evident that 
she, through whom not only the curse of 
our mother Eve was solved, but the blessing 
given to all, was exempt from all original sin, 

but it is the honour of exquisite piety, and 

the glory of virtue, to preach the incorrupt and 
uncontaminated purity of the most Blessed Vir- 
gin, and to declare her free from all contagion 
of the first origin." 

As St. John Damascen was the first who, in 
the East, drew up a systematic statement of 
Catholic doctrine, and St. Anselm, the first who 
did this in a scientific form in the West, it will 
be interesting to see what the two founders of 
theology have said on the subject of the Imma- 
culate Conception. And with these celebrated 
writers I shall conclude the testimonies from the 
Fathers, leaving the consideration of St. Ber- 
nard to the next chapter. 

In his first Homily on the Nativity of the 
Blessed Mary, St. John Damascen, in giving 
reasons why she is born of a sterile mother, 
says : " But I can allege a higher and diviner 
reason. For nature gave way to grace, and 
stood trembling, not daring to proceed. Since, 
then, it was to be that the Virgin Mother of 
God was to be born of Anna, nature did not 
dare to anticipate the germ of grace : but it 
remained devoid of fruit, whilst grace put forth 
its fruit." And in his Homily on the departure 
of the Blessed Mary,* he says of her : " To 

* De Dormitione B. V. 


tins Paradise the way for the serpent was not 
open, by the fascination of whose false divinity 
AV<> are brought down to the level of the beasts. 
For He, the Only- begotten Son of God, whereas 
He was God, and of the same substance as the 
Father, formed Himself into man from that 
Virgin and pure earth." Again, in his second 
Homily, on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, 
he thus addresses her : " Hail, bush, miracle 
enveloped in fire, thyself inaccessible to sin ; for 
that bush cannot be touched Hail, incom- 
parable wood, who didst not admit the worm of 
the corruption of sin." 

It is impossible not to conclude with St. 
Thomas, that St. Anselm has laid down the 
principles of the Immaculate Conception. In 
his treatise On the Virginal Conception, the 
holy Archbishop of Canterbury expounds the 
principle on which the doctrine rests in the 
following words : " It was fitting that the con- 
ception of that man (Christ) should be accom- 
plished from a most pure mother. For it was 
fitting that that Virgin should be resplendent 
with such a purity, that under God, a greater 
could not be imagined ; to whom God the 
Father disposed to give His one and only Son, 
whom, as born -from His heart and equal to 
Himself, He loved as Himself in such a manner, 
that He might be by nature one and the same 
Son in common of God the Father and of the 
Virgin ; her the Son Himself did choose to 
make substantially a mother for Himself; and 
from her the Holy Spirit willed, and was about 
to accomplish in act, that That should be con- 
ceived and born, from which He (the Holy 


Ghost) Himself proceeded."* But a purity so 
great that one more perfect cannot be imagined, 
can only be through exemption from original 
sin. And St. Thomas, commenting on this 
passage, draws the same conclusion in these 
words : " Purity is understood by the absence 
of what is contrary to it, and, therefore, a 
creature may be found, than which nothing 
can be more pure in created things, if it be 
defiled by no contagion of sin ; and such was 
the purity of the Blessed Virgin, who was 
exempt from original and actual sin. But she 
was beneath God, inasmuch as there was in her 
the power to commit sin."f 

St. Anselm adds, indeed : " But how that 
same Virgin was cleansed through faith, before 
that conception, I have already said." And he 
here refers to what he had said in a previous 
work, entitled, Why God id made Man. Yet 
this cleansing through faith before conception, 
can only mean that she who in her conception 
from St. Anne, was of the mass of sin, was 
cleansed through the mystery of faith, that is, 
through the merits of Christ, in her passive 
conception, or animation. For in that work 
it is not St. Anselm, but the interlocutor in the 
dialogue, who asks : " Why God took flesh 
from the sinful mass, that is, from the human 
race, which is wholly infected with sin?" and 
then asserts that Mary was conceived in sin, 
and born in sin, because she sinned in Adam. 
To which St. Anselm replies, that " Christ was 

* De Conceptu Virginali, c. 18. 
t In i. Sentent. d. 44. q. i. a. 3. 


born from the sinful mass without sin."* The 
Saint could never have intended to say that 
Mary was hoth conceived in sin, and born in 
sin, and he puts these statements in the mouth 
of an objector. And when he says that Christ 
was born of the sinful mass without sin, he says 
what all will say, that He was born of the mass 
of Adam without sin, for that mass was cleansed 
at the moment of Mary's animation. But though 
St. Anselm establishes the principle of the Im- 
maculate Conception so clearly, and St. Thomas 
has drawn the conclusion from it in a passage 
which is indisputably authentic, yet no one 
who reads St. Anselm through, can say that 
St. Anselm himself has drawn the same definite 

During so long and fervid a discussion, last- 
ing as it has done for centuries, the whole of 
the Fathers have been gleaned over and over 
again by the antagonists of the mystery, in 
search of whatever passages might seem to 
make against the glorious privilege of the 
Mother of God. The result of these researches 
has been brought together by Petavius. It 
amounts to some thirty passages, from the 
whole collection of the Fathers. And when 
we come to examine them, with the aid of 
that light which a precise idea of the mystery 
gives, not one of them is there which admits 
not of the most satisfactory explanation. For, 
in the first place, there is not a single Father, 
who, in formal terms, declares that Mary was 
defiled with original sin. Some affirm that God 

* Cur Deus homo. L. 2 c. 16. 


alone, or that Christ alone is without sin, with- 
out making any allusion to original sin, In 
others, it is said in general terms, that the 
whole human race is infected with original sin, 
whilst no direct allusion is made to the Blessed 
Virgin. A third class of passages assert that 
all men, if we except Christ alone, are infected 
by original sin. And when we have separated 
such testimonies as speak but in these general 
terms terms in which even the most strenuous 
assertors of the exemption of the Blessed Vir- 
gin as habitually speak, when they speak of 
mankind in general we have only a very few 
passages from a few Fathers left, which either 
speak of the flesh of the Blessed Virgin as a 
flesh of sin, or speak of her as sanctified, or as 
cleansed, or as purified. St. Augustine, and 
certain Fathers of his school, speak of the flesh 
of Mary as a flesh of sin. But they mean no 
more than that her flesh was derived from the 
common origin. And the flesh abstracted from 
the soul, neither has personality, nor is the 
subject of sin, as St. Anselm, and St. Thomas 
have taught, and is of itself neither capable of 
justice or of injustice. St. Anselm says, " origi- 
nal sin can only be in a rational nature."* And 
St. Thomas says, " original sin can by no means 
be in the flesh, as in its subject, but only in the 
soul."f Those Fathers, therefore, speak of the 
flesh of Mary as being conceived in the common 
way, and of that concupiscence which is both 
the daughter and the mother of sin, as St. 

* De Conceptu Virginali et Pec. Orig. c. 3. 
t In i. 2. q. 83. a i. 


Augustine says ; but in the Blessed Virgin this 
was cleansed, purified, and sanctified by grace, 
in her true or passive conception, when that 
flesh was animated. And thus, the language 
of these Fathers, of St. Augustine, of St. Ful- 
gentius, of St. Peter Damian, and of St. Anselm, 
so far from being opposed to the true and ortho- 
dox sense of the Immaculate Conception, is a 
language which perfectly accords with the doc- 
trine, and describes one of its real and admitted 
features. What was the real opinion of St. 
Augustine on the subject we have already seen. 
And St. Peter Damian has expressed himself 
with even greater clearness. For, besides other 
passages in which he has expressed the same 
idea with greater fulness, in his sermon on the 
Assumption, he says : " The flesh of the virgin 
which was taken from Adam did not admit the 
stains of Adam." * 

There are Fathers who call even the flesh of 
our Lord & flesh of sin, by reason of its descent 
from them who were sinners. St. Proclus, in 
his Sixth Discourse, calls the body of our Lord 
a body of sin. And St. Hilary, in his work 
on the Trinity, says of Christ : " He received 
a flesh of sin, that by taking our flesh He might 
forgive our sins ; whilst He was made partaker 
of it, by assuming it, and not by criminality.""* 
And St. Gregory Nazianzen has dared to say, 
that the Word "took condemned flesh"} But 
who will assert that these Fathers intended to 
insinuate that Christ was conceived in original 

* De Trinitate. L. i. n. 13. t Orat. 51. n. 18. 



This, then, is the conclusion we are brought 
to. There is an unbroken chain of Fathers for 
the Immaculate Conception, and there are none 
who deny the mystery in that sense in which 
the Church explains and understands it. But 
as it had never been up to this period a subject 
of controversy, it had not been couched in any 
doctrinal formulary. 





THE leaders of the two greatest revolts 
against the Church of God, strange to say, 
have received and reflected, each in his pecu- 
liar way, the tradition of the Church on the 
Immaculate Conception. 

It is well known that Mahomet, during the 
commercial period of his life, conversed with 
Christians on their doctrines, especially in his 
visits to the great fair of Bosra, which brought 
people together from all parts of the East. In 
various parts of his Koran he has inserted frag- 
ments of Christian teaching, coloured with his 
own fancies. And, amongst the Christian tradi- 
tions, which he thus caught hold of, was that 
of the Immaculate Conception. The passage, 
however, owing to the rhapsodical character of 
its style, is not very intelligible to ordinary 
readers, without the aid of explanation. And 
that explanation the Mahommedan commenta- 
tors will supply to us. The passage is contained 
in the third chapter of the Koran, which is 
entitled, The Family of Imran. Imran, or 
Amran, according to the commentators, is the 
Jiusband of Anna, and the father of Mary, it 


is another name for St. Joachim. In this chap- 
ter it is said : 

" God hath surely chosen Adam, and Noah, 
and the family of Abraham, and the family of 
Imran, above the rest of the world; a race 
descending the one from the other; God is 
He who heareth and knoweth. Remember, 
when the wife of Imran (Anna) said, Lord, I 
have vowed unto thee that which is in my 
womb, to be dedicated * to thy service ; accept 
it therefore of me, for thou art He who heareth 
and knoweth. And when she was delivered 
of it, she said, Lord, verily I have brought 
forth a female, (and God well knew what she 
had brought forth) and a male is not as a 
female ; f I have called her Mary, and I com- 
mend her to thy protection, and also her issue, 
against Satan, driven away with stones. :[ There- 
fore, the Lord accepted her with a gracious 
acceptance, and caused her to bear an excellent 

I have cited the passage from Sale's transla- 
tion. Marracci, in his Latin version, which Sale 
highly commends for its accuracy and closeness 
to the Arabic, renders the chief portion of the 
passage after this manner : " And I indeed 
have called her Mary : and I assuredly com- 
mend the care of her to thee, and her offspring, 
to be defended from Satan struck with stones. 

* The original word is free, which signifies here, as Gelali says, one 
free from worldly occupations and desires, and devoted to God. 

t That is, a female cannot minister in the temple as a male could. 

% Driven away with stones. This expression alludes to a tradition that 
when the devil tempted Abraham to disobey God, and not to sacrifice 
his son, Abraham drove him off with stones. In memory of which the 
pilgrims to Mecca cast stones at the devil in the valley of Mina. 


The Lord therefore received her with a beauti- 
ful reception, and caused her to germinate with 
a beautiful germ." 

I need scarcely remind the reader that the 
Koran was written in the seventh century. 
Gelali, or Gelaleddin Mahalli, explaining the 
passage, after Mahommedan traditions, in the 
fifteenth century, says : " In the histories it is 
said, no one is born but Satan touches him at 
his birth, and therefore he bursts into weeping, 
except Mary and her Son."* Hossein Vaes, a 
century later, repeats the exposition in his Per- 
sian commentary.! Cotada confirms the Ma- 
hommedan opinion in these words : " Every 
one born of Adam is pierced in the side by the 
touch of Satan when born, except Jesus and 
His Mother : for God put a veil between them 
and Satan, so that the touch of Satan was 
arrested in the veil, nor did it touch them in 
any part. Moreover, it is narrated to us, that 
neither of them committed any sin, as the other 
children of Adam do."J 

Sale, in his note on Mahomet's text, says : 
" It is not improbable that the pretended imma- 
culate conception of the Virgin Mary is inti- 
mated in this passage." 

This tradition is the more remarkable as the 
Mahommetans teach from their Koran, that God 
made a compact with Adam and all his descend- 
ants at his creation. 

* Marraccl, Alcorani Refutatio, in locum, 
t D'Herbclot, Billiothfcque Orient, art. Miriam. 

t Marracci. Ibid. 
J D'Herbelot, art. Adam. 


The Koi\an goes on to say that Mary, under 
the care of Zacharia, was. placed in a chamber 
of the temple. It then narrates the miraculous 
birth of St. John the Baptist, whom he calls an 
honourable, chaste, and righteous prophet, who 
should bear witness to the Word from God. It 
then adds : " The angels said, Mary, verily 
God hath chosen thee, and hath purified thee, 
and hath chosen thee above all the women of 
the world : Mary, be devout towards thy 
Lord, and worship and bow down with those 
that bow down." 

The respect which Mahomet and his followers 
have always expressed towards the Blessed Vir- 
gin, and which should put many to shame who 
profess themselves Christians, is the more re- 
markable when we consider their notions re- 
specting the rest of her sex, opinions as dis- 
graceful as they are degrading, and which tend 
to show that theoretical opinions concerning 
Mary are of no avail, unless in those Christian 
hearts which separate her not from Jesus, and 
truly honour her as the Mother of God. An 
anecdote is told by D'Herbelot, from the Defter 
Lethaif, which illustrates the Mahommedan 
opinion concerning Mary. 

Abou Ishac, one of the most famous doctors 
of Mahommedanism, was ambassador from the 
Caliph, at the court of the Greek Emperor. 
There he had warm disputes on the subject of 
religion with the Greek Patriarch and several 
bishops. The bishops had quoted sundry re- 
flections made by Mahommedans to the disad- 
vantage of Ayesha, the wife and widow of the 
false prophet. Abou Ishac replied, by drawing 


a picture of the divisions in the East respecting 
Our Lord's incarnation ; how some said that the 
Holy Virgin brought forth, some said she did 
not bring forth, some said they knew not 
whether she did or did not. He then concluded 
with this appeal to the bishops: "How can 
you be surprised that Mahommedans have dif- 
fered about Ayesha, since Christians have differ- 
ed about that glorious Virgin Mary, who was a 
mine and a fountain of purity ?" 

Let us now turn to Martin Luther. 

In a sermon on the Gospel from the eleventh 
chapter of St. Luke, " Blessed is the womb that 
bore thee" &c. preached on the day of the Con- 
ception of the Blessed Virgin, Luther has put 
forth the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception 
in so clear and solid a way, that one may almost 
forgive him the fling at the Religious Orders 
with which he opens his discourse. After speak- 
ing on original sin, and of the birth of Christ 
from the Blessed Virgin, he says: 

" But as the Virgin Mary was herself born of 
a father and mother in the natural way, many 
have been disposed to assert that she was also 
born in original sin, though all with one mouth 
affirm that she was sanctified in the maternal 
womb, and conceived without concupiscence. 
But some have been disposed to take a middle 
way, and have said that man's conception is two- 
fold; that the one is from the parents, but 
that the other takes place when the little 
body is prepared, and the soul infused by 
God, its Creator. Of the first conception we 
shall say nothing. Nor does it much concern 
us, so that the Virgin Mary be conceived in 


such manner after the common way, that Christ 
may still be excepted, as alone conceived in the 
way peculiar to Himself, that is, without man. 
For it must so have been that Christ, God and 
man, would be conceived in all His members 
perfect ; wherefore it was necessary that His 
should be the most spiritual and most holy of all 
conceptions. But in the conception of the Vir- 
gin Mary, whose body was formed with pro- 
gress of time, and after the manner of other 
children, until the infusion of the soul there was 
no need of such a conception, for it could be 
preserved from original sin until the soul was to 
be infused. And the other conception, that is 
to say, the infusion of the soul, is piously believ- 
ed to have been accomplished without original 
sin. So that, in that very infusing of the soul, 
the body was simultaneously purified from origi- 
nal sin, and endowed with divine gifts to receive 
that holy soul which was infused into it from God. 
And thus in the first moment it began to live, it 
was exempt from all sin. For before it could 
begin to live, perhaps it may be said that there 
was neither absence nor presence of sin, for that 
only belongs to the soul and to the living man. 
Thus the Virgin Mary holds as it were a middle 
position between Christ and other men. For if 
indeed Christ, when He was conceived, was 
both living, and at that very moment was full of 
grace ; whilst other men are without grace, both 
in their first and in their second conception ; so 
the Virgin Mary was, according to the first con- 
ception, without grace, yet, according to the 
second conception, she was full of grace. Nor 
was this without reason. For she was the mid- 


way between all nativities, being born of a 
father and mother, but bringing forth without 
a father, and being made the mother of a Son 
who was partly of the flesh and partly of the 
Spirit. For Christ was conceived partly of her 
flesh and partly of the Holy Ghost. Moreover, 
Christ is the father of many children, without a 
carnal father, and without a carnal mother. 
But as the Virgin Mary is properly the midway 
between the carnal and the spiritual nativity, 
the end of the carnal but the beginning of the 
spiritual, so she justly holds the midway in her 
conception. For as the rest of mankind are, 
both in soul and in body, conceived in sin, whilst 
Christ is conceived without sin, as well in body 
as in soul, so the Virgin Mary was conceived, 
according to the body, indeed, without grace, 
but according to the soul, full of grace. This is 
signified by those words which the angel Gabriel 
said to her, ' Blessed art thou amongst women.' 
For it could not be said to her, Blessed art thou, 
if at any time she had been obnoxious to the 
curse. Again, it was just and meet that that 
person should be preserved from original sin, 
from whom Christ received the flesh by which 
He overcame all sins. And that, indeed, is pro- 
perly called blessed which is endowed with 
divine grace, that is, which is free from sin. 
Concerning this subject others have written far 
more things, and have alleged beautiful reasons, 
but it would lead us to too great lengths if we 
repeated them in this place."* 

Martini Lutheri Postillae. In die Conceptionis Marise Matris Dei. p. 
360-1. Argentoratl apud Gcorgium Ulricum Adlanum, anno, xxx. 


Such is the testimony which the founder of 
Protestantism has left on record, concerning the 
Immaculate Conception. 




No controversy arose on the Immaculate Con- 
ception until the twelfth century. The Festival 
in its honour had been established from an early 
period in the East, in Spain in the seventh, in 
Naples by the ninth, in England in the eleventh 
century, but as yet it had not been instituted 
in Rome. 

In the days of St. Bernard the Festival had 
begun in Lyons, whereupon the Saint addressed 
a vehement letter to the Canons of that Church, 
in which he reproved them for taking the step 
upon their own authority, and before they had 
consulted the Holy See. And, in the earnest- 
ness of his denunciation, he questioned the mys- 
tery. Yet it is evident from the tenor of his 
language, that he had no idea in his mind 
beyond that of the active conception, and that 
the distinction between the active conception 
and the passive, or animation, had not yet been 
drawn. The words of St. Bernard are unmis- 
tak cable. He says : " For how could she be 
holy without the sanctifying Spirit, or how 
could there be an association between the Holy 
Ghost and sin ? Or how, truly, could sin be 
absent when concupiscence (libido} was not ab- 
sent ; unless it were said that she was conceived 


of the Holy Spirit and not of man ? But hitherto 
this has been unheard of."* St. Bernard, then, 
is clearly arguing upon the notion of the active 
conception, which the Church does not contem- 
plate in the mystery. Hence Albert the Great 
observes : " We say that the Blessed Virgin was 
not sanctified before animation, and the affirma- 
tive contrary to this is the heresy condemned 
by St. Bernard in his epistle to the Canons of 

St. Bernard was at once replied to by a 
treatise on the Conception, written by either 
Richard of St. Victor, or Peter Comestor. After 
the Saint's death the controversy arose anew 
between Nicholas, an English monk of St. 
Alban's, and Peter Cellensis, the celebrated 
Bishop of Chartres. Nicholas defended the Fes- 
tival as established in England, and Peter, 
though he maintained to the last that the 
authority of the Holy See should have been 
invoked, yet expressed his agreement with 
Nicholas, at the conclusion of the controversy, 
in these words : " You praise the Blessed Vir- 
in, and I praise her. You preach her holy, so 
o I. You exalt her above the angelic choirs, 
so do I. You say she was exempt from original 
sin, and I say it. Turn and return the question 
of her veneration, and of her glorification in 
every condition, and I go with you, I feel with 


* I have refrained from translating the following sentence, which puts 
St. Bernard's meaning beyond question An forte inter amplexus mari- 
tales sanctitas se ipsi conception! immiscuit, at simul et sanctificata et 
concepta fuit. Nee hoc quidem admittit ratio. 

f- In 3, dist. 3, art. 4. 
t Pet. Cel. L. 9. Ep. 10. Bib. Max. Patr. 


The point continued to be debated through- 
out the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, 
and great names appeared on both sides. St. 
Thomas at first pronounced in favour of the 
doctrine, in the passage quoted in the last chap- 
ter from his Treatise on the Sentences, yet in 
his great work, the Sum of Theology, he con- 
cluded against it. At the same time, his master, 
Albert the Great, who lived to survive him, 
stood for the doctrine. Much discussion has 
arisen as to whether St. Thomas did deny that 
the Blessed Virgin was immaculate at the in- 
stant of her animation or not. And most learned 
books have been written to vindicate him from 
having actually drawn the negative conclusion. 
But after all the researches that have been made 
into manuscripts and early editions of his works ; 
though some manuscripts, and five editions, 
represent him as really teaching the doctrine, 
and that in both the Sum of Theology and in 
other of his works; and though some of the 
greatest divines even of his own Order, and of 
his own school, and those of an early period, 
represent him as having had no intention of 
opposing it; yet it is hard to say that St. 
Thomas did not require an instant, at least, 
after the animation of Mary before her sancti- 
fication. His great difficulty appears to have 
arisen on the question, how she could have been 
redeemed if she had not sinned. This difficulty 
he has raised in not fewer than ten passages in 
his writings. But whilst St. Thomas thus held 
back from the essential point of the doctrine, it 
is most worthy to be remarked, that he himself 
laid down the principles, which, after they had 


been drawn together, and worked out through a 
longer course of thought, enabled other minds 
to furnish the true solution of his difficulty 
from his own premises."' 

Up to this time a great deal of the objection 
owed its existence to a want of clear insight 
into the subject in dispute. The word concep- 
tion was used in different senses, and those 
different senses had not been separated by care- 
ful definitions. And the language employed in 
certain of the arguments wanted the same kind 
of clearing up. The argument laboured, in 
fact, under an ambiguous middle term. Thus 
the disputants were often contending for the 
same truths, and their words alone were actually 
in conflict. It may also be well to call to mind, 
whilst speaking of these disputes, that the teach- 
ing authority in the Church is in the Episco- 
pacy, and not in the schools of theology. The 
work of theologians is to bring together and 
classify the teachings of authority, and to eluci- 
date them by their learned reasonings. The 
popes and bishops are the true guardians of the 
divine traditions. Valuable as their great works 
are, the divines of those times are not so much 
distinguished for the investigation of evidence 
as for the exercise of their powers of reasoning. 
Not many of them made any great study of the 
Fathers, or of history. They read the Western 
Fathers more than those of the Eastern Church, 
who are much the fullest on the tradition of the 
Immaculate Conception. And many works of 
the Fathers, which had been lost sight of, have 

*0n this subject see the very beautiful and learned work of Cardi- 
nal Sfondrato, entitled, Innocentia Vindicata. 


since been brought to light and made acces 

The authority of St. Thomas had a decided 
influence for a time, but with his great intellect 
he had himself prepared the way for a more 
clear comprehension of the subject. St. Bona- 
venture, his contemporary, had done yet more 
in this path. With a firm hand he drew the 
distinctions clearly between the different parts 
of the controversy, and separated the point, 
which formed the real question, from its entan- 
glements. He himself wavered between the 
doctrine and the objections which seemed to 
stand in its way, and has been generally consi- 
dered as opposed to it. But in his latest writ- 
ings he clearly declared himself for the privi- 
lege of Mary, and in language which shows how 
thoroughly he had at last apprehended the sub- 
ject. In his second sermon on the Blessed 
Virgin he says : " Our Lady was full of pre- 
venting grace in her sanctification, of grace pre- 
servative against the foulness of original sin ; 
which sin, from corruption of nature, she would 
have contracted, if she had not been prevented 
and preserved by special grace. But only the 
Son of the Virgin, and His Virgin Mother, were 
exempt from original sin. For it is to be be- 
lieved that, by a new kind of sanctification, the 
Holy Spirit redeemed her from original sin, not 
that it was in her, but that it might have been 
in her, had not He, by a singular grace, pre- 
served her from it."* 

The phrase, a new kind of sanctification, 

* Serm. 2. De B. V. M. See Appendix, a. 


and the introduction of the word redeemed, in- 
dicate that the solution of St. Thomas' difficulty 
had dawned upon St. Bonaventure. This Saint, 
whilst he held the office of General, introduced 
the Feast of the Immaculate Conception through- 
out the whole Franciscan order. 

But soon after St. Bonaventure there arose in 
his order the famous John Duns Scotus, who, 
first at Oxford, and then in a disputation before 
the University of Paris, laid the foundations of 
the true doctrine so solidly, and dispelled the 
objections in a manner so satisfactory, that from 
that moment it prevailed. It was Scotus who 
removed the great objection of St. Thomas. He 
proved that so far from being excluded from 
redemption, the Blessed Virgin obtained of 
her divine Son the greatest of graces and re- 
demptions, through that very mystery of her 
immaculate preservation from all sin.* And 
from this time the doctrine of the Immacu- 
late Conception not only gained a vast deal 
of ground in the schools of the universities, 
and became the common opinion there, but 
the Feast of the Conception came to be estab- 
lished in Rome. This was done under Nicho- 
las III., or perhaps Clement V., and the 
example spread widely through those countries 
where it had not been previously adopted. 
With the exception of the Dominicans, all, or 
nearly all, the Religious Orders took it up. And 
the devotion sank deeply into the hearts of the 

Still the controversy continued, but the de- 

* In 3 Sent. d. 3. q. I. 


fenders of the opposing doctrine became more 
and more limited in numbers, and were almost 
confined to the members of the Order to which 
we have alluded. In the year 1439, the dis- 
pute was brought before the Council of Basle. 
And after it had been discussed for the space of 
two years before that assemblage, the assem- 
bled Bishops declared the Immaculate Concep- 
tion to be a doctrine which was pious, consonant 
to Catholic worship, Catholic faith, right reason, 
and Holy Scripture, and that it ought to be 
approved and embraced by all Catholics, nor, 
said they, was it henceforward allowable to 
preach or declare to the contrary. But as the 
Council was at the time without a head, it was 
not in a position to exercise authority or to 
prescribe to the Church. And it is only ad- 
duced to show the sentiments entertained by 
the bishops there assembled. The controversy 
therefore continued, until, in the year 1476, 
Pope Sixtus IV., to put a stop to the scandals 
and disedification which it occasioned, granted 
indulgences to all who recited the canonical 
office, or assisted at the mass of the Immaculate 
Conception. And as this did not prove sufficient 
to appease the conflict, in 1483 the same Pope 
published another Constitution, in which he 
punished with excommunication all those of 
either opinion who charged the opposite opinion 
with heresy, since the Holy See had. not as yet 
pronounced upon it. 

In the year 1546 the great Council of Trent 
declared that : "It was not in the intention of 
this Holy Synod to include in the decree, which 
concerned original sin, the Blessed and Immacu- 


late Virgin Mary, Mother of God." But as 
this decree did not define the doctrine although 
it was well known that, with very few excep- 
tions, the great body of the bishops assembled 
were inclined to the pious belief the theological 
opponents of the mystery, though becoming 
continually reduced in numbers, did not yield in 
their pertinacity. But as great scandal and 
offence was given in the Church by those who 
brought up the discussion in public disputations, 
and even in the pulpit, St. Pius Y. not only 
condemned the proposition of Baius, that " No 
one but Christ was without original sin, and 
that therefore the Blessed Virgin had died be- 
cause of the sin contracted in Adam, and had 
endured afflictions in this life, like the rest of 
the just, as punishments of actual and original 
sin ;" but the same holy Pope published another 
Constitution, in which he forbade all public dis- 
cussions by word or writing, in any living lan- 
guage by either party, and only allowed of 
moderate disputation in private. Finally, he 
inserted the office of the Conception in the 
Breviary, and the Mass of the same mystery in 
the Missal, and made it a Feast of obligation. 

But whilst these disputes continued, the great 
universities, and almost all the great Orders, 
had become so many bulwarks for the defence 
of the Immaculate Conception. In the year 
1497, the University of Paris unanimously de- 
cided and published a statute to the effect, that 
henceforward no one should be admitted as a 
member of the university who did not swear 
that he would, to the utmost, assert and defend 
the position, that the Blessed Virgin was pre- 


served and exempted from original sin. Tou- 
louse followed the example. And in Italy, 
Bologna, and Naples; in Germany, Cologne, 
Mayence, and Vienna ; in Belgium, Louvain ; 
in England, before the Reformation, Oxford and 
Cambridge ; in Spain, Salamanca, Toledo, Se- 
ville, and Valentia ; in Portugal, Coimbra and 
Evora ; in South America, Mexico and Lima ; 
all these great universities and seats of theolo- 
gical learning bound their members by oath to 
defend the Immaculate Conception. 

The most celebrated Religious Orders ren- 
dered homage to the privilege of Mary, and 
several of them even from their first foundation. 
The Premonstratenses celebrated an office estab- 
lished by their founder St. Norbert himself, in 
which they greeted the Blessed Virgin as " pre- 
served by the Holy Ghost, and triumphing 
without harm over the great sin of our first 

The Friars Minors, in a General Chapter in 
1621, declared unanimously that they had hon- 
oured the Blessed Virgin as conceived without 
sin, from the very beginning of their Order, and 
bound themselves by oath to teach the mystery 
in public and in private, and to promote devo- 
tion to it. 

The Carmelites, by a statute which dates 
from 1306, not only celebrated the festival, but 
made a daily commemoration of the mystery. 

The Trinitarians had an office in honour of 
the mystery, and the Introit of the Mass began : 
" Let us celebrate the Immaculate Conception of 
the Virgin Mary." 

The Order of Mary for Redemption of Cap- 


tives bore the white scapular in memory of the 
Immaculate Conception, and ended their daily 
meditation with the following prayer : " 
God, who didst preserve the immaculate Virgin 
Mary from all stain of sin in her conception, 
grant that we who truly believe the purity of 
her innocence, may feel that she intercedes for 
us with Thee." 

The military Orders of Santiago, of Cala- 
trava, and of Alcantara, went still further, for 
they all vowed to defend the doctrine with 
their blood. 

The Carthusians, the Cistercians, the Celes- 
tines, the Jeronimites, the Minims, the Camal- 
dolese, the Cluniacs, and the Servites, all 
adhered to the pious belief. 

The Society of Jesus had been conspicuous 
from its beginning in defending the doctrine, 
and honouring the devotion. 

One celebrated Order was alone found absent 
from the general unanimity. The Dominicans 
were under special obligation to follow the 
doctrines of their great divine St. Thomas ; 
and though there were some learned and famous 
men of the Order, flourishing not long after St. 
Thomas, who maintained that the Saint did not 
deny but actually maintained the immaculate 
preservation of Mary at the instant of her ani- 
mation, yet the common conclusion was to the 
contrary. The principal men of the Order who 
held the former opinion, were the Englishman, 
John Bromyard, and the Spaniard, John of St. 

There can be no doubt but that had St. Ber- 
nard and St. Thomas lived in these days, those 


two great assertors of the other privileges of 
the Blessed Mother of God, would have been 
amongst the foremost to defend and uphold her 
stainless origin. For both of them expressly 
taught the principle laid down by St. Augus- 
tine, that the Church never celebrates any festi- 
val except of what is holy. And they both had 
proved the holiness of the birth of the Blessed 
Virgin, from the fact that her nativity was ob- 
served as a festival throughout the Church. St. 
Bernard concluded his celebrated letter in these 
words : " But what I have said I have certainly 
said without prejudice to what may be more 
soundly thought by one more wise. I reserve 
all this, and everything else of the kind, for the 
examination and judgment especially of the 
Roman Church, and if I think in anything dif- 
ferently, I am prepared to be amended by its 
judgment." And St. Thomas, in the very article 
in which he seems to stand opposed to the pious 
belief, makes the following declaration : "Al- 
though the Roman Church may not celebrate 
the Conception of the Blessed Virgin, it yet 
tolerates the custom of some other churches 
which do celebrate the Festival, hence such 
celebration is not to be wholly disapproved of."* 
What, then, would St. Bernard have said, and 
what would St. Thomas have said, had they 
seen a Pope, and he a Saint of the Dominican 
Order, establishing the Festival, and making it 
of precept for the whole Church ? What would 
they have said, had they witnessed the devotion 

* 3 P. q. 27. a. 2. ad 2. 


and the fervour with which it has long been 
everywhere celebrated ? 

But it is a popular error that the Dominican 
Order has always, and in almost all its distin- 
guished men, been opposed to the pure origin of 
the Blessed Virgin. Historians affirm that St. 
Dominic wrote a book against the Albigenses in 
defence of three principles, one of which was the 
Immaculate Conception. They appeal to a tab- 
let, preserved in the archives of Barcelona from 
almost the days of St. Dominic, who died in 
1221. In that tablet it is recorded that the 
Albigenses denied that Christ could be the true 
Redeemer, or that the sacred host did contain 
His real body, and one of the reasons alleged 
for His not being the true Redeemer was, that 
He was not born of an immaculate Virgin, but 
of one stained with original sin. Against these 
errors St. Dominic wrote a book On the Flesh 
of Christ, in which he not only maintained the 
redemption of Christ, but defended the Imma- 
culate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. He 
maintained that it was of her the Holy Ghost 
had said through Solomon : " Thou art all 
fair, my love, and there is not a spot in 
thee." The following words are also quoted 
from his book, which is no longer to be found : 
"As the first Adam was formed of virgin 
earth, which was never accursed, so it was be- 
coming that it should be in the second Adam." 
It is further said, that as the Albigenses with 
whom the Saint disputed, had declared that if 
his book were cast into the fire and came out 
unharmed, they would believe in it ; St. Domi- 


me threw it into a furnace, and it did come out 

Spondanus in his annals,f Catherinus, and 
other writers assert, that from the beginning of 
St. Dominic's Order the Feast of the Concep- 
tion was celebrated until the year 1387, when 
the word Conception was changed for that of 
Sanctification. And in an ancient Dominican 
Martyrology, written in 1254, the Conception 
of the Blessed Virgin is marked as a double 
feast, as also in their Martyrology, printed in 
1579. From a book of Hours of the Blessed 
Virgin, printed in Paris, in 1529, for the use of 
the fathers of the Dominican Order, Cardinal 
Sfrondato cites these remarkable passages. From 
the prayer : " God, who, for the salvation of 
the human race, didst deign to assume flesh 
from the Glorious Virgin, and didst chose her 
from before the ages to be Thy mother, and to be 
conceived without stain, grant," &c. From the 
hymn at Tierce: "The praiseworthy Concep- 
tion announced by the angel to Mary, who was 
so lovingly preserved in her Conception." From 
the Hymn at Vespers : " Hail, Star of the Sea, 
without stain conceived." 

Amongst the distinguished Dominicans who 
are mentioned as maintaining the mystery, are 
Albert the Great, Vincent of Beauvais, St. Vin- 
cent Ferrer, Taulerus the great mystic writer, 
John of Viterbo, St. Louis Bertrand, the vener- 
able Jerom Lanuza, St. Raymond of Pennafort, 
Cardinal Hugo, Louis of Grenada, and Natalis 

* For the authorities, see Jnnocentia Vindicata. Sec. 5. 
t Ad An. 1387. 


Alexander. It is now two hundred years since 
Nieremberg enumerated five Generals, twelve 
Masters of the Sacred Palace, and about a hun- 
dred doctors of the Dominican order, who had 
written or spoken in defence of the Immaculate 
Conception. * 

Besides individuals of the Order, the Domi- 
nicans of Spain in their Provincial Chapter of 
1524, decreed that, "Whereas the Dominican 
Order has hitherto sustained the opinion, that 
the Blessed Virgin was conceived in original 
sin ; this is not now so to be considered, for it is 
a matter of no utility, and is exceedingly scan- 
dalous, especially as almost the entire Church 
(whose usage and authority, according to St. 
Thomas, prevails against the dictum of any in- 
dividual Doctor) asserts at this time that she 
was preserved therefrom." And the Provincial 
Chapter of 1683 petitioned Pope Paul V. that 
" they might recite the Office and celebrate the 
Festival of the most pure Conception of the 
Mother of God." 

The fourteenth Prayer of St. Catherine of 
Sienna has been alleged to prove that this 
glorious Saint of the Dominican Order was op- 
posed to the exalted privilege of the Mother of 
God. But this part of the prayer, though 
printed in the Aldine edition of 1500, and in 
another Venetian edition of 1548, is left out in 
the Sienna edition of Gigli of 1707, and also in 
the Lucca reprint of 1726.f The prayer is not 

* Exception. Concil. Trid. f. 194. See Innocentia Vindicata. Sec. 5, 
for their names and works, or Nieremberg. 

t Gigli refers for his reasons, at length, for the omission, in a note, 
after the prayer, vol. iv., to annotations in vol. i. p. 2- which volume 
I have not been able to meet with. 


in the usual style of St. Catherine. Its terms 
savour of the theology of the schools, and Peter 
de Alva wrote at considerable length to prove 
that it came from the hand of Vincent Bandello 
de Castelnovo. 

The Dominican Order had ever been conspi- 
cuous for their devotion to the Blessed Virgin ; 
they had been the greatest promoters of that 
devotion through the Rosary ; they had been 
founded under her especial patronage, and they 
wore their white habit in her honour. That 
devotion, and the general action of the Church, 
have gradually worn away the prejudice in 
which so many of its members had been held, as 
it were spell-bound, against this doctrine, by 
the influence of that great light of the schools, 
St. Thomas. Yet it should be observed, that if 
as individuals a considerable number of Domini- 
can theologians have held opinions which brought 
the Immaculate Conception into question, the 
Order itself has never uttered anything as a 
body, in any form whatever, against the doctrine, 
so as authoritatively to influence its members, 
whether in its General or in its Provincial 
Chapters.* And, in the year 1843, their Gen- 
eral petitioned the Holy See that the Festi- 
val of the Conception might be celebrated 
throughout the Order with a solemn octave, 
and that the words Immaculate Conception 

* The Procurator-General of the Dominicans, Father M. Francis Gande, 
has just issued a work on the relation of the Dominican Order with the 
doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and expressive of the firm adhe- 
sion of the Order to the dopnatic definition. It is entitled, " De Immacu- 
late Deiparse Conceptu, ejusque Dogmatica Deflnitione, in Ordine pr- 
sertiui ad Scholam Thomisticam et Institutum F.F. Prcedicatoruin." __. 


might be used by them in the Preface of the 

Near the cell once occupied by St. Dominic 
at St. Sabina's, in Rome, there is an orange- 
tree, which was planted, says the tradition of 
the Order, by their holy founder. Shrunk with 
so many centuries of age, inclining towards the 
ground, and threatening a final decay, in the 
year when the reviver of the French Domini- 
cans entered the noviciate of that house, the 
old root sent up a new and vigorous shoot, 
which in the few last years has become an 
upright and comely stem, and last year bore 
fruit. May it prognosticate the restoration of 
that illustrious and venerable Order to its 
ancient splendour, under the protection of their 
Immaculate Patroness, of which restoration it is 
already giving goodly signs. 

To conclude in the briefest manner the his- 
tory of the contest ; in the year 1622, that he 
might put an end to those private disputations 
and writings which, as the Pope intimates, were 
still going on between certain Religious Orders, 
to the disedification of the faithful, Gregory 
XV. imposed an absolute silence on those who 
either in public or in private, by speech or writ- 
ing, were daring enough to amrm that the 
Blessed Virgin was conceived in original sin, 
until the Holy See should define the question. 
Those only were exempted from the severe 
penalties by which this Constitution was enforc- 
ed, who received especial permission from the 
Holy See. The Pope then enjoined that where 
the word Sanctification was still used, as it was 
in some instances, it should be expunged from 


the Mass and the Canonical Hours, and the 
word Conception inserted in its place. The 
decree called signs of joy from almost every 
part of the Catholic world. 

But there were still here and there intem- 
perate persons, who raised the question under a 
new form, and affirmed that the word Immacu- 
late had been indeed associated with the Blessed 
Virgin by the Council of Trent as a general 
epithet, but that it was not applicable to her 
Conception. The principal mover in this con- 
troversy was the notoriously unsound Launoy. 
And to put an end to all further cavilling, in the 
year 1661, Alexander VII. promulgated the 
famous Constitution directed against those who, 
by their scandalous attacks, sought to disturb 
the pious faithful of Christ in the peaceful pos- 
session of that devotion and Festival which so 
many Pontiffs had favoured. He defined the 
true sense of the word Conception, as employed 
in the offices and devotions of the Church and in 
the Constitutions of his predecessors, to signify 
that the belief which the ancient piety of the 
faithful of Christ had felt, and which almost all 
Catholics embraced, was that " The soul of the 
Blessed Virgin, in the first instant of its crea- 
tion and infusion into the body, was, by the 
especial grace and privilege of God, and in 
view of the merits of Jesus Christ her Son, pre- 
served and made exempt from original sin" 
Finally, this Pope forbad all further glossing or 
interpreting of the Scriptures, Fathers or Doc- 
tors, in whatever way, as against the common 
and pious sentiment of the faithful. After this, 
the faithful were left in peace, except when such 


intemperate men as Muratori and Ricci in the 
last century, and Hermes in the present, pre- 
sumed to assail the holy mystery once more. 
But it is a significant fact that Muratori appeared 
tinder a mask, and in the three books which he 
published, changed his assumed name as often ; 
but the only result was to bring out to the light 
some of the most valuable works that were ever 
penned in vindication of the great privilege of 
the Mother of God.* 

In looking through the vista of ages back to 
the beginning of this controversy, the first thing 
which strikes our attention is the fact that it was 
never a division of the Episcopacy. It was sim- 
ply a conflict in certain schools which possessed 
no teaching authority. It began in a dispute 
as to the power through which a Festival ought 
to be established in local churches. In the 
ardour of the moment, St. Bernard called in 
question the holiness of that conception of the 
Blessed Virgin which it was proposed to cele- 
brate. The word itself conveyed two senses, 
and the one contemplated by the tradition of 
the Church was not the one the Saint under- 
stood. St. Bernard took up the term in its 
popular sense, which the Church does not con- 
template. This confusion of terms embroiled 
and kept up the quarrel until the days 
of St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure. For so 
long, it was like the old story of the gold and 
silver shield. St. Thomas hesitated to adopt 
what was yet but a pious belief, not an article of 
faith ; because he did not fairly see his way to 

* See especially C. Octavius Valerius, De Superstitiosa Timiditate 
Vitauda, &c. A work replete with curious learning. 


reconcile it -with the great dogmas of original 
sin and redemption. St. Bonaventure rendered 
the subject more clear, and then Scotus solved 
the difficulties of St. Thomas. After this, oppo- 
sition sank more and more, and almost all the 
great institutions of the Church became the 
zealous promoters or the valiant defenders of the 
Immaculate Conception ; all the universities, and 
almost all the great Religious Orders were con- 
tending for Mary's privilege. It never came 
before the Bishops assembled in their Councils, 
but they shewed themselves inclined to it. It 
never came before the Sovereign Pontiffs, but 
they protected it as a doctrine and encouraged 
it as a devotion. 

Why, then, should the debate have been al- 
lowed to continue for so long a time ? A full 
reply to this question would require an entire 
treatise on the Providence which guides the 
events within the Church to her final exalta- 
tion. Rosmini has written such a treatise, as 
St. Augustine did before him, and their lofty 
principles require but to be applied to this par- 
ticular case. I must content myself with a few 
very brief remarks. 

God has allowed certain truths, though im- 
plicitly contained in Scripture and tradition, to 
remain under a greater or less degree of obscu- 
ration up to a particular time. Such truths 
may even be explicitly apprehended and ex- 
pressed at various points in the general current 
of tradition, but have not become as yet the 
daily object of the contemplation, the writing, 
the preaching, and the devotion of the Church. 
Then some one who has not clearly seized the 


more or less latent sense of the Church on a 
given question, commits himself to an opposite 
opinion. Suddenly the Church is startled, as 
when St. Cyprian insisted on rebaptizing here- 
tics. For the truth is in the Church, though it 
forms not as yet a part of her constant daily 
teaching. But that was a case involving a 
practical question which demanded instant deci- 
sion. The first thing questioned respecting the 
Conception of the Blessed Virgin was the right 
of establishing its Festival. It had begun in 
particular Churches in the West, and the Holy 
See had not been invoked, nor had it set the 
example. And it was rather a vindication of 
the privileges of the Holy See, in respect of a 
point on which the Holy See itself observed 
silence. Then the controversy glided into the 
question of doctrine. But the language used 
was ambiguous, it might refer, and in St. Ber- 
nard's case it clearly did refer, to the active 
conception, and this is not what the Church 
honours. But even this ambiguous language, 
wearing as it did the appearance of opposing 
the true doctrine, spread a feeling of disedifica- 
tion so widely as to show the sense which was 
latent in the Church. Still there was no great 
practical question as yet demanding an imme- 
diate solution. The devotion continued to spread 
with the Festival, but the Head of the Church 
had not yet sanctioned it either by voice or ex- 
ample. Had the Festival been universal at that 
time, the Church must soon have spoken. But 
as long as the Festival was but partial, and had 
not the highest sanction, and as long as the 
language on both sides continued to be ambigu- 


ous, so that it could not be easily seen who 
was for the true tradition and who was against 
it ; so long, in fact, as both parties might be 
contending for the same thing under a different 
phraseology, the Church waited until divines 
became more clear, that she might more readily 
point out her own sense in the controversy. 
And no sooner was the subject cleared up than 
Councils and Popes began to be explicit, and 
they all spoke in one direction. An overwhelm- 
ing majority appeared on the side of truth as 
soon as it was intelligibly put forth. Opposi- 
tion shrank within the limits of a single school, 
chiefly of one out of the many Orders which 
flourished in the Church. Even that school 
maintained the sanctification as taking place 
soon after, though not at the moment of anima- 
tion. Nor was this maintained, by continually 
dwindling numbers, without offending the gene- 
ral sense of the Church to such an extent, that 
the Popes were compelled to reduce the opinion 
to silence. 

We must then distinguish three periods in the 
history of the doctrine. The first is that of 
simple faith and tradition. At this period the 
Fathers speak of it, and even enlarge upon it 
by figures and comparisons, especially in the 
East, but do not apply to it the principles 
of theological reasoning. This takes us from 
the apostolic age to the twelfth century. The 
second period is that in which reasoning was 
first applied to the mystery. And then ap- 
peared a result, that often has occurred when 
reason is first applied to a revealed truth. 
Reason had to labour long, before it could make 


the necessary discriminations, approximate the 
various principles which bore upon it, place the 
subject exactly in its proper light, adjust its 
relations with truths universally admitted, and 
reconcile it with conclusions worked out already 
in collateral subjects. But at all this reason- 
ing and counter-reasoning, simple-hearted faith, 
which asked no reason beyond the fact that 
the Blessed Virgin was the Mother of God, 
was keenly scandalized. This may be called 
the period of ambiguous language. It dates 
from the twelfth to the fourteenth century, from 
St. Anselm to Scotus. Then came the period 
when theological reason had pervaded the ques- 
tion, had cleared up its difficulties, and had har- 
monized the doctrine with the general scheme of 
theology, when, in short, it became a confirma- 
tion of those very truths which at first it had 
been suspected of opposing. And its acceptance 
became a reasonable acceptance, which the more 
learned investigation of antiquity served still 
further to confirm. 

But this long agitation of human thought 
brought out lights to the understanding, which 
not only illuminated the mystery, and invested 
it with new beauties for our contemplation, but 
also shed an effulgence on the several truths 
with which it stood related. And how many 
great minds made their offerings to the Imma- 
culate Mother, from the fruits of their genius, 
not from the necessity of defending the faith, 
but as free-will oblations of their devotion ; 
whilst what they studied more laboriously, and 
professed more generously, and defended more 
ardently, was rewarded more abundantly. 


Great virtues were brought into exercise, and 
a generous faith was cultivated by the very dif- 
ficulties and denials, with which devotion to the 
mystery was surrounded. And the faithful 
clung more fervently to the Mother of God for 
the express reason that her great privilege was 
gainsayed. Love of the Blessed Virgin was 
increased thereby, for we love that excellence 
more ardently which is assailed untruly, as we 
also love more earnestly what has cost us more 
dearly. What the heresies against Mary have 
helped to do from without the Church, that the 
opposition to her Immaculate Conception has 
done within the Church. It has developed the 
whole theology of the Blessed Virgin. 

At the time when this mystery was most 
questioned, St. Bridget was writing her revela- 
tions, than which none since the Apostles, none 
that are not of divine faith, have received more 
striking testimonies of authenticity. In these 
revelations the Blessed Virgin is introduced 
as speaking to the Saint : 

" I know that my Conception has not been 
known to all, for God so willed it, that as the 
natural law and the voluntary election of good 
and evil preceded the written law, and after- 
wards came the written law, which restrained 
every inordinate emotion ; so has it pleased 
God that even my friends should have pious 
doubts concerning my Conception, and that each 
should display his zeal, until at the preordained 
time the truth shall shine forth." 




THE Festival of our Lady's Conception was 
celebrated at an early period in the Oriental 
Church. The earliest records designate the 
solemnity either as the Conception of St. Anna 
or as the Conception of the Blessed Virgin. But 
whilst in the Western Church this Feast has been 
always celebrated on the eighth, in the East it 
was observed on the ninth of December. The 
first mention of it that has come down to us is 
in the Typic drawn up by St. Sabas, who flou- 
rished in the year 4S4. This Typic was the 
order or directory for regulating the divine 
office throughout the year, used in the monas- 
teries of Jerusalem.* The next mention of the 
Feast is by St. Andrew of Crete, who was mar- 
tyred in the year 761, and who also composed a 
hymn used in the office of the Festival. George, 
Archbishop of Nicomedia, who flourished in 880, 
has left three discourses on the Festival, of which 
two are entitled " On the Conception of the 
Mother of God," and one " On the Conception 
of St. Anne," In one of them, he says that 

* It should, however, be observed that this Typic was found in a 
very damaged condition, and restored by St. John Dainascen. Vid, 
Cave, Historia Literaria, vol. 2,, p. 146. 


this Festival has precedence over other solem- 
nities by reason of the miracles consummated 
therein, and that the mystery is a basis or 
ground-work on which whatever mysteries have 
been dispensed are gathered as on their founda- 
tion. " It is fitting then," continues the Arch- 
bishop, " that we should venerate the Conception 
as the beginning and cause of universal blessings, 
and celebrate it with a more earnest joy."* 

The following passages are extracted by Abbot 
Gueranger, the celebrated Liturgist, from the 
Greek office on the Conception of Mary : " In 
thee was the fall of our first parents arrested, 
deprived of its power to act against thee." " In 
thee, who hadst no affinity with any guilt what- 
soever, do 1 place my entire hope. No one was 
ever without culpability like thee, Lady, nor 
undented like thee, subject to no stain." j 

In the most ancient of the Eastern Liturgies, 
the origin of which is ascribed to St. James, the 
Blessed Virgin is commemorated as : " J Our 
most holy, immaculate, and most glorious Lady, 
Mother of God, and ever Virgin Mary." And 
three times this formulary is repeated. In the 
Maronite Ritual for ordaining a Chorepiscopus, 
which Morinus published from a very ancient 
manuscript, the Blessed Virgin is imprecated 
under the titles of: "Our holy, praiseworthy, 
and immaculate Lady, the at all times Blessed 
Mary, Mother of God." In the Alexandrian 

* In Concep. S. Annae. 

t Memoire stir La Question de L' Immaculd Conception, p. 77. 
J Bibliothec. Max. Patrum. T. 2. p. 3. 
S De Sacris ordinat. p. 313. 


Liturgy of St. Basil, she is invoked as : <c Thd 
most holy, most glorious, immaculate, accumu- 
lated with blessings, our Lady, Mother of God, 
and ever Virgin Mary."* 

The word immaculate is applied so constantly 
and in all ages as a title to the Blessed Virgin, 
that it may be well to consider what was the 
precise meaning that was attached to it. Hesy- 
chius explains it as signifying pure and incul- 
pable. Suidas explains it as meaning pure and 
without culpability. The Commentary on the 
Psalms, placed among the works of St. Chrysos- 
tom, explains the word immaculate as signifying 
free from all vice, crime, and defilement, ivith- 
out spot, iniquity, or sin, and constituted exte- 
rior to every spot, iniquity, or sin. St. Ambrose 
says of Christ, that He was immaculate, because 
He was not denied by the ordinary conditions of 
birth. St. Ephrem says of Mary, she is imma- 
culate and most alien from every stain of sin. 
The word is used with allusion to the victims of 
the Old Law, which were to be immaculate, that 
is to say, without fault or blemish, as they repre- 
sented the spotless perfection of Christ. It is 
used of Christ by St. Paul as the immaculate or 
spotless Victim ,t and by St. Peter, when he 
speaks of Christ, as the immaculate or spotless 
Lamb.J It is used in no other sense in the New 
Testament, except when applied to the Church 
as the body of Christ,|| or to the holy members 
of the Church who possess the fruit of redemp- 

* Renaudot. Litnrg. Orient. Collec. T. I. 

t Hebr. ix. 14. 

J I. Pet. i. 19. 

U Eph. v. 27. 


tion ;* or to the blessed in heaven.f In liturgi- 
cal language it is limited to the most Holy 
Eucharist, as the spotless and inculpable victim, 
and to the Blessed Virgin, as the spotless and 
inculpable Mother of God.| 

The Feast of the Conception was introduced 
later into the Western Church than in the East. 
The Spaniards have a tradition that it was 
introduced into their country at a very early 
period. It was a solemn Festival throughout 
Spain in the 10th century, and Julian, a writer 
of that period, ascribes its introduction to St. 
Ildephonsus three centuries earlier. In the 
Mosarabic Ritual, as revised by St. Ildephonsus 
in the 7th and approved by Pope John X. in the 
9th century, in the Canon of the Mass there 
occur these words: "Virgin Mother of God, 
whose true Conception we this day celebrate." 
And in the blessing for the people there are 
these words : " May He who preserved His 
Mother from the contagion of corruption, keep 
our heart immaculate from crime." During its 
most flourishing periods, the Sovereigns, Pre- 
lates, and people of Spain were ever urgent to 
obtain a definition of this mystery, which has 
always been a most cherished object of the de- 
votion of that nation 

In a church at Naples there is a celebrated 
Calendar engraved on marble in the 9th century ; 

Eph. i. 4. Coloss. i. 21. 
t Jade v. 24. Apoc. xiv. 5. 

t See Passaglia, who treats the subject at lenpth, sec. 2. art. I.; also 
the Cursus Completus Theologiae, T. 26, p. 659, L>e Immaculata. 

8 Sfronduto, Innocentia Vindicate, p. 49. 


and on it the Conception of the Holy Virgin 
Mary is marked on the ninth of December, the 
day on which it is celebrated by the Greeks, 
from which Naples seems to have derived the 

But it was from England that this Festival 
took its most remarkable rise and diffusion in 
the Western Church. It is affirmed to have 
originated in our country from a vision, which 
appeared to Helsinus, Abbot of Eamsey, during 
a storm at sea in the time of William the Con- 
queror, Besides the two letters appended to 
the works of St. Anselm, in which the vision is 
described, it is narrated in a manuscript of the 
twelfth century, formerly kept at the great 
monastery of La Trappe, and now in the Li- 
brary of Alenon. It is described with the same 
details in the Metrical History of Wace, who 
flourished in the reign following that in which 
it is stated to have occurred. The vision of 
Helsinus is also mentioned in the Register of 
Ramsey Abbey, which is preserved in the Ex- 
chequer. I shall give the narrative as quoted 
from the above-mentioned manuscript of the 
twelfth century.* 

" When the Danes heard that England had 
submitted to the Normans, they were indignant 
at the loss of an island to which they pretended 
they had an hereditary right. They prepared 
themselves then for war, and armed a fleet for 
the purpose of expelling the conquerors. When 
King William heard of these things he thought 
them worthy of his attention. He chose a cer- 

* In the Univers. Dec. lath, 1854. 


tain Religious, the Abbot of the Monastery of 
Ramsey, and sent him into Denmark to inform 
himself of the truth of these reports. This 
Abbot was an intelligent man, and having faith- 
fully performed his mission, he re-embarked to 
return to England. His ship had already ac- 
complished more than half her passage, when 
suddenly there uprose a tempest which con- 
vulsed both sea and sky. The seamen, exhaust- 
ed by their conflict with the waves, were losing 
courage, their oars were shattered, the cordage 
broken, and the sails rent ; all hopes of safety 
had abandoned them. Then all in the ship com- 
mended their souls to God with loud cries. 
They called upon the Mother of God, the refuge 
of the miserable, and the hope of the despair- 
ing. Suddenly they saw a man of venerable 
aspect, clothed in pontifical garments, who 
seemed to stand erect on the waves near the 
vessel. He spoke to the Abbot Helsinus, and 
said : ' Wouldst thou escape the danger of the 
sea T As the Abbot said that with all his heart 
he wished to do so, that august personage said 
to him, ' Know, then, that I am sent by Our 
Lady, Mary, the Mother of God, whom thou 
hast so piously invoked. And if thou wilt at- 
tend to my words thou shalt be saved from the 
great peril of the deep, thou and thy compan- 
ions.' The Abbot promised him all obedience. 
'Promise, then, to God, and to me/ said the 
Angel, < that thou wilt solemnly celebrate, each 
year, the Feast of the Conception of the Mother 
of Christ, and that thou wilt preach the celebra- 
tion of this Festival.' Helsinus was a prudent 
man, and he asked, ' On what day must this 


Feast be celebrated?' 'On the eighth of De- 
cember.' ' And what office shall we take ?' 
The Angel answered : ' The entire office of the 
Nativity shall be said on the Conception.' After 
these words he disappeared. At once the tem- 
pest was appeased ; and, driven forward by a 
rapid wind, the Abbot and his companions came 
safe and sound to the shores of England. What 
he had heard and seen Helsinus made known as 
far as he could, and he himself established the 
Feast of the Conception in the Monastery of 

The vision is said to have taken place in the 
year 1070. After St. Ansehn had been made 
Archbishop of Canterbury, in the year 1093, 
he is said to have established the Feast of the 
Conception in the Province of Canterbury. 

In a council of that Province, held in London, 
under Archbishop Mepham, in the year 1328, 
the feast was made of solemn observance. And 
the Archbishop passed a decree in the following 
terms : " Adhering to the footsteps of the 
venerable Anselm, our predecessor, who besides 
those other more ancient solemnities of the 
Blessed Virgin, thought it worthy to superadd 
the solemnity of the Conception; we appoint, 
and by a firm precept command, that the Festi- 
val of the aforesaid Conception be henceforth 
celebrated in a festive and solemn manner, in all 
our Churches of the Province of Canterbury."! 
Earlier Synods had confirmed the observance 
of the feast, but not as one of solemn precept; 

* On this subject see Appendix, B. 
t Lyndwood. Provinciate. 


yet in particular places it was observed with 
great solemnity before this time. For Geoffrey 
de Gorham, who was Abbot of St. Alban's from 
1119 to 1146 appointed the feast to be cele- 
brated in his monastery in copes, in the same 
manner as the Ascension.* It continued to be 
solemnly observed in England down to the Re- 
formation and is still marked as a festival in the 
Protestant Calendar. 

Driven an exile into France by the persecu- 
tions, first of Rufus, then of Henry L, St. 
Anselm spread devotion to the Conception of the 
Mother of God in that country. It is the tradi- 
tion of Normandy that he was the means of the 
establishment of the Feast in that Province. It 
is also asserted that it was through his influence 
that it was first introduced into Lyons. It was 
in that city that he composed his treatise On 
the Virginal Conception. St. Norbert intro- 
duced the feast into Belgium about the year 
1 200. Hungary is stated by Vincartius to have 
received it much earlier. 

As early as 1072, which was just after Helsi- 
nus's vision, John of Bayeux, Archbishop of 
Rouen, established a confraternity of the Imma- 
culate Conception in that city. We must follow 
the history of this confraternity for a moment. 
In 1486, the Lieutenant- Governor of the city, 
Peter Dare, instituted a competition in poetry, 
the subject of which was the praise of this 
divine mystery, and henceforth the confrater- 
nity took the name of the Academy of the 
Immaculate Conception. The poet crowned the 

* Matthew of Paris, Vifce Abbatum. 


first year was John Chappe, whose poem has been 
preserved, and it goes into the whole doctrine 
of the Immaculate Conception. The academy- 
continued its existence up to the great Revolu- 
tion. Caen would not be behind Rouen in 
celebrating the praises of the Immaculate Mother 
of God, and so, in 1527, John Lernercier, a distin- 
guished advocate, established a similar competi- 
tion in that city, and in that rivalry some of 
the most distinguished scholars of France were 
crowned with laurel for their poetic strains in 
honour of Mary's Immaculate Origin. 

It would take volumes to enumerate the con- 
fraternities and other pious institutions which 
everywhere arose under the patronage, or with 
an express view to promote the honour of a 
mystery which had so deep a hold on the piety 
of the faithful. It was to protect the piety of 
the faithful from the disedification inflicted upon 
them, that the Popes were induced to exercise 
so many acts of repression against that minority 
of divines who were disposed to attribute sin to 

Nor should the universal conviction of pious 
Catholics be passed over as of small account in 
the general argument. For that pious belief, 
and the devotion which springs from it, are the 
faithful reflection of the pastoral teaching. The 
more devout the faithful grew, the more devoted 
they showed themselves towards this mystery. 
And it is the devout who have the surest instinct 
in discerning the mysteries of which the Holy 
Spirit breathes the grace through the Church, 
and who with as sure a tact reject what is alien 
from her teaching. The common accord of the 


faithful has weighed much as an argument even 
with the most learned divines. St. Augustine 
says, that amongst many things which most 
justly held him in the bosom of the Catholic 
Church, was " the accord of populations and of 
nations.""' In another work he says, " It seems 
that I have believed nothing but the confirmed 
opinion and the exceedingly wide-spread report 
of populations and of nations."f Elsewhere he 
says : " In matters whereupon the Scripture has 
not spoken clearly, the custom of the people of 
God, or the institutions of our predecessors, are 
to be held as law."J In the same spirit St. 
Jerome argues, whilst defending the use of 
relics against Vigilantius. " So the people of 
all the Churches who have gone out to meet 
holy relics, and have received them with so 
much joy, are to be accounted foolish." 

We cannot do better than listen to the words 
of the learned Petavius on this part of the sub- 
ject, for besides their inherent weight, they 
have been adopted by the greatest writers in 
treating the subject. " I am inclined," he says, 
" towards the Immaculate Conception, most 
especially by that common sentiment which is 
entertained of it by all the faithful, who have 
this deeply rooted in the innermost recesses of 
their minds, and by all the signs and devotions 
in their power, bear witness that nothing was 
ever created by God more chaste, more pure, 

* Contra. Epist. Fundamenti, c. 4. 

t L. De Utilitate Credcndi c. 14. 

$ Epist. 36 ad Consulanum. 

J L. Contra Vigilautium. 


more innocent, more alien, in short, from every 
condition and stain of sin than that Virgin. 
That she truly never did hold anything in com- 
mon with hell and its ruler the devil, and there- 
fore not with any offence towards God or with 
damnation. That very grave author, St. Paulinus 
of Nola, has given us this excellent admonition: 
' That we should depend upon the spoken sense of 
all the faithful, because the Spirit of God breathes 
on each believer.' John Fisher, the Bishop of 
Rochester, in the book which he wrote for the 
king of England against Luther, taught how 
great is the weight of this universal suffrage 
of all Catholics even when not called forth or 
demanded by any precept, but spontaneously 
uttered. In the third chapter he is disputing 
on communion under both kinds, and he uses 
this amongst other arguments : ' That by force 
of no precept, but by tacit consent of people and 
clergy, the said custom grew up. That it was 
received by the silent suffrages of all, before we 
read that it was confirmed by any Council. This 
custom grew up with the people, that is, under 
the guidance of the Holy Ghost. For no one 
doubts but that the Church is guided by the 
Holy Ghost, unless he disbelieves the Gospel of 
Christ, For in that Gospel the Holy Ghost 
Himself is promised, I say the Holy Spirit of 
truth is promised, that He may abide in the 
Church for ever, that He may teach her and 
lead her into all truth, and may declare what is 
of Christ, and what He has heard from Christ/ 

&c After this manner," continues Peta- 

vius, "it is to be believed that God has made 
manifest to Catholic Christians that complete 


apprehension of what the Immaculate Virgin is, 
and has inspired that notion and that firm per- 
suasion respecting her." 

There are so many things in the Church 
itself which tend to breathe the conviction into 
the hearts of the faithful, that the Mother of 
Christ, that Mother whom Christ gave to us as a 
Mother, is a sinless creature, and one whom 
grace created immaculate. They celebrate the 
Feast as a mystery of grace, and they know it 
must be holy ; they hear its praises from the 
pulpits, and read them in books written by holy 
pastors ; they gaze on pictures and statues in 
which the mystery is symbolized ; perhaps their 
church, their country, or their diocese, has been 
dedicated to the mystery, and if not, they know 
well that other churches and other dioceses are, 
and that this is the work of their Bishops ; they 
join in confraternities or in devotions to the 
Immaculate Conception, and they know that the 
Popes have granted indulgences to encourage 
such devotions ; they wear holy medals with the 
same intention ; they think of the infinite purity 
of God, how He turns from all alliance with sin, 
and they judge what a Mother of the most pure 
God should be ; they hear, perhaps they know, 
of miracles wrought by invocation of the Imma- 
culate; they know what an exception Mary 
was to most of the common conditions of our 
nature; they know how Jesus loved her, and 
how she loved Jesus ; they have never heard of 
her in the Church except as the ever Blessed 
Virgin, and as full of grace ; they know how 
the Church has always shrunk from ascribing 
sin to her; and having their souls breathed 


upon by influences like these, and aided by the 
Holy Ghost, with the truest instinct of grace 
and love they repel all thought of sin from 
association with the Mother of the world's Re- 
deemer ; indeed, it is not in their power to 
associate sin with her ; but with the unerring 
logic of their holy and humble affections, they 
cry out : Mary, conceived without sin, pray 
for us ! 

And what has produced this intimate and 
universal conviction, but the analogies of faith ? 
What but a sense of its truth, of its beauty, of 
its fittingness, of that honour which it reflects 
on Jesus, and of that glory which results from 
it to God ? What has wrought the pious con- 
viction but that religious sense, so far above the 
force of nature, which tells us that grace alone 
could have fixed our minds with such unwaver- 
ing firmness of belief upon a mystery so heaven- 
ly and pure, so free from the corruptions of our 
nature, and so far removed from the bitterness 
of our own experience? What has wrought 
this universal conviction but that a sense of it 
was always living in the hearts of the faithful, 
those hearts in which the most pure image of 
Mary dwelt ? The faith of it moved through 
the living frame of the Church before it was 
spoken clearly with her lips. She meditated on 
the mystery, and its light shone on her features, 
long, very long, before she reduced it into 
solemn sentences, and imprinted on them the 
seal of her infallible authority. 

The miraculous medal, in these latter days, 
has been the favourite symbol of devotion to 
the Immaculate Conception. Can it be said of 


any other mystery or devotion that was ever 
called in question, that before the authority of 
the Church had pronounced upon it, it was the 
custom of pious Catholics, in every part of the 
world, to bear a symbol of it, an actual material 
symbol of it, day and night upon their persons ; 
and that this symbol was not even limited in its 
use to the children of the Church ? The medal 
was revealed to a simple and holy virgin in 
Paris, in the year 1830, and bears upon it a 
representation of the Immaculate Mother as she 
appears in the great vision of the Apocalypse. 
It has acquired the name of miraculous, one can 
scarcely say how, though it is easy to tell why. 
But, except the holy Cross, no other Christian 
symbol was ever so widely multiplied, or was 
ever the instrument of so many marvellous re- 
sults. It has been in use just a quarter of a 
century, and countless have been the favours, 
the graces, the preservations, the conversions, 
the miraculous interpositions of which it has 
been the occasion. Blind, indeed, is that child 
of the Church who has lived through this period 
and failed to recognize the benedictions which 
have flowed in upon the faithful through the 
invocation of this mystery, and the pious use of 
this symbol. Let us refer for a moment to the 
well-known conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne. 
He was a young, high-spirited, and accomplished 
Jew, well known, highly connected, and roost 
strongly tenacious of his Israelite convictions. 
His contempt of Christianity had been deepened 
into hatred through the conversion of his bro- 
ther. In 1842, and when at the highest con- 
tent with his opinions, and looking forward to 


an early marriage with an accomplished lady of 
his race, he is induced by a pious Catholic gen- 
tleman to place the medal of Our Immaculate 
Lady round his neck. I need not say that the 
prayers of his friend accompanied that act, 
which Ratisbonne regarded but with ridicule. 
It was in Rome, and he entered a Church to 
wile away a few moments whilst waiting for his 
Catholic friend. Suddenly Our Lady appeared 
to him. She spoke not, but she signed with 
her hand, and he fell upon his knees, and in a 
few moments more he arose a changed being. 
Judaism had left him, and ignorant as he had 
been of the doctrines of Christianity up to that 
time, he was found to be completely instructed 
in all Catholic doctrine, and burning with desire 
for the sacraments. And for the love of Christ 
he renounced all the brilliant prospects which 
life had opened to him and embraced the 

* See the account of his conversion written by himself. 




I HAVE already noticed that the doctrine of 
the Immaculate Conception was never associated 
with any division in. the Episcopacy. No coun- 
cil or other episcopal assembly has ever breath- 
ed a word against it. It never came before them 
but they showed their inclination to cherish and 
protect the pious belief. If we except Ricci, 
the Bishop of Pistoia, who was unsound on so 
many points, it would be difficult to mention 
a single Bishop who, in the exercise of his 
authority, has ever opposed the doctrine. Here 
and there one, who had passed from the chair 
of theology to the mitre, may have maintained 
the contrary opinion as a private theologian. 

The first council in which the doctrine is in- 
dicated is that celebrated Synod of Frankfort, 
in the time of Charlemagne. The Bishops of 
all Germany, Gaul, and Aquitaine, to the num- 
ber of about three hundred, were assembled 
under the presidency of two legates of Pope 
Adrian, to condemn the heresy of Elipandus 
and Felix of Urgel, and the emperor was also 
present. The heresy maintained that Christ 
was not the natural, but only the adopted Son 
of God. This error naturally led to the con- 


sideration both of the eternal generation of 
Christ from the Father, and of His human 
generation from Mary. And in their Synodal 
letter to the Bishops of Spain, that passage 
occurs which we have partially cited in a former 
chapter. The fathers of the Synod say : 

" But we would know this from you. When 
Adam, the first father of the human race, was 
created of virgin earth, was he made in the 
condition of freedom or of servitude ? If in a 
condition of servitude, how then was he the 
image of God ? If in a condition of freedom, 
why then was not Christ also of free condition 
from the Virgin ? For He was made man of a 
better earth, of animated and immaculate earth, 
by the operation of the Holy Spirit, as the 
Apostle says : ' The first man was made of the 
earth, earthy, the second was of the Heaven, 
heavenly' If we confess that the earthly was 
constituted in a free condition, why do we not 
much more confess that the heavenly was of 
free condition ? Whence was Adam made ser- 
vile unless from sin ; as the Apostle testifies : 
* He who commits sin is the servant of sin.' " 

If the decree of the Council of Basle, in 1439, 
had not authoritative influence because of the 
absence of the Pope or his legates, it shows at 
all events that the assembled Bishops, who dis- 
cussed it for so long a time, and expressed it so 
clearly, had themselves embraced that pious be- 
lief which they called upon all Catholics to 
receive and embrace. Spondanus records in 
his annals, that a dreadful pestilence had been 

* Harduin. t. iy. f. 891. 


raging in Basle, which ceased on a sudden when 
the Immaculate Conception was declared, as if 
Heaven approved the doctrine, though not the 
general conduct of the assembly. 

But in 1457 a council was held in Avignon, 
presided over by two Cardinal Legates of the 
Holy See, in which the decree of the Council of 
Basle was adopted and promulgated in the fol- 
lowing terms : >" We enjoin that the decree on 
the Conception of the most Blessed Virgin 
Mary, which was made in the Council of Basle, 
be inviolably observed ; and we strictly forbid 
any person whatever, under pain of excommuni- 
cation, from presuming to preach or dispute 
publicly to the contrary ; and if any so do, it is 
our will that he incur the aforesaid sentence by 
the very fact. And in the first Synod to bo 
celebrated in each several diocese, we ordain that 
the aforesaid decree be promulgated, and that 
it be enjoined on the curates of the churches, 
to make it known to the people." The decree 
is signed by the two Cardinal Legates, the 
Archbishop of Aix, and by twelve bishops of the 

If, in the great Council of Trent, no more was 
actually done than to declare the Blessed Virgin 
to be excepted from what was there decreed 
concerning original sin, yet the opinions of the 
assembled Bishops were fully brought out in 
the discussions. Pallavicini, the historian of 
the Council, informs us that more than two- 
thirds of the Bishops were disposed to insert 
the words, " who is piously believed to have 

* Harduin. t. ix. f. 1388. 


been conceived without original sin." And the 
Dominican Catherinus, who wrote a treatise in 
defence of the mystery, addressed to the fathers 
of the Council, and also assisted at these dis- 
cussions, says in the preface to his work, that 
many of the fathers thought it opportune, and 
for the best, that a decree should be passed 
approving and establishing that sentiment on 
the Immaculate Conception, which had long 
been celebrated and honoured by a solemn rite 
in nearly all Churches, so that henceforth no 
one should be free to hold the contrary. " This 
was opposed by a very feiv," says Catherinus, 
and the ground of that opposition, observes this 
writer, was chiefly the consideration that they 
were assembled to oppose the heresies of the 
times, and that a more suitable period would arise 
for deciding such points as were debated within 
the Church. 

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries 
there were but few synods, but devotion to the 
Immaculate Conception continued to be more 
and more fostered. Perrone gives an authentic 
list of three hundred Bishops or heads of reli- 
gious orders, who, between 1834 and 1847, had 
applied to the Holy See for authority to insert 
the word Immaculate in the preface of the Mass 
of the Conception. About the same number 
applied for the privilege of inserting in the 
Litany of Loretto the petition, Queen conceived 
without original sin. Under the present Pon- 
tiff we have witnessed the revival of Provincial 
Councils, and on all sides they have re-echoed 
the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. 
Those, for example, of Sens, of Kheims, of 


Avignon, of Tours, and of Baltimore, -where the 
whole Episcopacy of the United States made a 
formal declaration of their faith in the doctrine. 
And during the same Pontificate, petitions flow- 
ed in from prelates in all parts of the world, 
petitioning the Holy See to pronounce a dog- 
matic decision upon the mystery. And it was 
after this ardent desire had been expressed by 
so great a number of the members of the Epis- 
copacy, that Pius IX., in February 1849, issued 
the Encyclical letter from Gaeta, addressed to 
all the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and 
Bishops of the Catholic world, in which the 
Pope observes, that during the Pontificate of his 
predecessor, Gregory XVI., a most ardent de- 
sire had wonderfully revived in the Catholic 
world, that the Apostolic See should at length 
put forth a solemn decision to the effect, that 
the most Holy Mother of God was conceived 
without original sin. The Pontiff dwells upon 
the number of illustrious Bishops, Chapters and 
Religious Orders, including that of the Domini- 
cans, who had petitioned the Holy See that 
they might publicly proclaim her immaculate, 
both in her Litany and in the preface of the 
Mass for the Festival. He refers to the great 
number of Bishops who had petitioned his pre- 
decessor or himself, and had most urgently 
entreated that the Holy See would define as a 
doctrine of the Church, that the Conception of 
the Blessed Virgin was immaculate, and wholly 
exempt from every stain of original sin. He 
speaks of those men of our age, distinguished 
for genius, piety, and learning, who, in their 
laborious writings, have so illustrated the sub- 


ject, that many wondered why the Holy See 
had not, by its solemn judgment, decreed to the 
Blessed Virgin that honour which the piety of 
the faithful had so earnestly longed to see ascribed 
to her. He then adds that he has appointed a 
commission of distinguished Cardinals and of 
learned divines, to make a most accurate exami- 
nation of the whole question. He urges all the 
Bishops to enjoin prayers in their respective 
Dioceses, that he may be illuminated with hea- 
venly light to enable him to decide whatever is 
most to the glory of God, the praise of the 
Blessed Virgin, and the utility of the Church. 
Finally, he most earnestly calls upon all Bishops 
to signify to him each as early as practicable, 
what the devotion of the clergy and people of 
his Diocese is towards the Immaculate Concep- 
tion, and how far they felt the desire to see it 
defined by the Holy See. But especially, and 
above all, did he express his desire that the 
Bishops themselves would convey to him what 
was their own sentiment and desire on the 

This celebrated letter brought out the senti- 
ments of the entire Catholic Church, and placed 
them before its supreme visible Head. Never 
before was the Church so thoroughly searched 
through on a question of her doctrine antecedent 
to its definition. Letters from upwards of six 
hundred bishops poured into Rome. Every one, 
without exception, expressed his firm belief in the 
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, 
and his devotion towards this mystery of God's 
love and power. Four only raised any objection 
to its being defined. But fifty-two, while de- 


claring themselves satisfied as to the sufficiency 
of theological reasons for such a definition, and 
themselves prepared for it, yet hesitated as to 
its opportuneness at the present moment. Still 
all, whatever might be their own opinions, 
professed themselves most ready to obey what- 
ever emanated from the Holy See upon the 

And here it may be well to say a word to 
those persons who imagine that the assembling 
of a General Council is essential for the defini- 
tion of an article of faith. Many doctrines have 
indeed been defined in those venerable assem- 
blies, but many have also been defined without 
the form of a General Council. Infallibility was 
promised by Christ to the teaching Church, 
that is, to the Apostles and their Successors : 
and that for all days, even to the end of the 
world. Infallibility, then, is an attribute of the 
Church at all times, and not merely at the mo- 
ment of a General Council. A council is but 
one of different ways in which the teaching 
Church expresses its judgment. Great and 
dignified, indeed, are those illustrious assem- 
blages. But provided the head and body of 
the Catholic Episcopate speak with one accord- 
ant voice, their authority is equally great and 
decisive, whether they be assembled together, 
or speak severally, yet accordantly, from their 
sees. Thus the Pelagian heresy was condemned 
without the assembling of any 'General Council. 
Two Provincial Councils in Africa condemned 
the errors, the Sovereign Pontiff confirmed the 
decision, and the universal Episcopate accepted 
his judgment. And hear how St. Augustine 


speaks of it to his people. " Now, on this cause 
the two Councils have been sent to Rome, the 
answers also have come back from there ; the 
cause is finished."* 

And what does St. Augustine reply to the 
Pelagians when, with the usual discontent of 
heresy, they cried out for a General Council ? 
He exclaims, " What do they say ? that, From 
simple bishops, seated in their own places, with- 
out the assembling of a Synod, a subscription is 

wrested ? that, The gathering of a Synod 

was required for condemning a pestilence so 
manifest as this? As if no heresy was ever 
condemned without the assembling of a Sy- 

If, therefore, a doctrine be pronounced, when 
occasion demands it, by the local Episcopacy, 
as in the case of the Pelagians, and the Sove- 
reign Pontiff confirms it by his solemn judg- 
ment, and the Catholic Episcopate accepts and 
promulgates it, the whole teaching Church 
has spoken. Or if the Sovereign Pontiff pro- 
nounces a solemn judgment, as in the case of 
the Jansenists, and it is received and promul- 
gated by the universal Episcopate, the teaching 
Church has spoken. It has spoken, even as 
when the Fathers of Chalcedon, hearing the 
letter of Leo against the Eutychians, exclaimed : 
" Peter has spoken through Leo." And if the 
Bishops of the universal Church, each severally, 
declare the doctrine of their Sees, and that 
doctrine is found to be unanimous, and the 

* Serin. 133 De Verbis Apost. 
t Contra Duas Epistolas Pelag. L. 4. 


Sovereign Pontiff makes solemn definition of 
the same doctrine, the universal Church has 
spoken. The cause is finished. 

No General Council ever brought out so uni- 
versal an expression of the Catholic Episcopacy 
on a question of doctrine, as that Encyclical of 
Pius the Ninth has brought it to expression in 
our own times. Each Bishop, calmly seated in 
his diocese, -with its influences around him, 
wrote deliberately down the tradition of his 
See, the sense of his clergy and people, and 
his own doctrinal judgment. And thus, whilst 
in a council a part of the Episcopate alone can 
be present in person, and the rest by represen- 
tation, in this case each bishop spoke in person, 
and the voice of the Catholic Church was found 
to be unanimous. 




WE have now to hear the voice of the Su- 
preme Pastor of Christ's flock, who sits in the 
Apostolic Chair. We have to listen to that 
Head and Mother of all Churches, on which, as 
Tertullian says, " the Apostles poured out all 
their doctrine with their blood ;" and to which 
it is needful that all the Church should come to 
receive from thence the form of sound words 
and the seal of every doctrine. We have to 
give our attentive ears to that Roman Church, 
" the place of Peter, the principal the ruling 
Church, the root and matrix of the Catholic 
Church," as St. Cyprian styles the Holy See. 
For to Peter our Lord said : ' / have prayed 
that thy faith may not fail : feed my sheep : 
confirm thy brethren. 

From the first raising of the controversy to 
the solemn moment at which the doctrine was 
defined, the conduct of the Holy See exhibits 
a most beautiful instance of that wisdom, for- 
bearance, delicacy, and firmness, which are the 
abiding characteristics of the Sovereign Pontiffs. 
From first to last their acts concerning the 
belief of the Immaculate Conception and the 


devotion of which it is the object, though ex- 
tending over nearly four centuries, exhibit a 
consistency and unity of purpose such as might 
have emanated from some one perspicacious 
mind. No matter from what school or from 
what Religious Order a Pontiff was raised to 
the chair of Peter, he was still found extending 
favour and protection to the sublime privilege of 

From the decree of Sixtus IV., in 1476, to 
the present day, three-and-thirty Pontiffs, in- 
cluding every Pope whose reign was not too 
brief for many acts of authority, have issued 
Constitutions, either directly or indirectly favour- 
ing the doctrine, or extending encouragement to 
the devotion of the Immaculate Conception. 
These Papal Constitutions, before the close of 
the reign of Pius VI., had reached the number 
of seventy.* 

Towards the close of the fourteenth century, 
probably under Nicholas III., the Feast of the 
Conception began to be celebrated in Rome. 

It was after Bandello of Castelnovo had pub- 
lished the work, in which he declared the 
doctrine of the Immaculate Conception to be 
heretical, that, to remedy the scandal it occa- 
sioned, Sixtus IV. grantejd to the faithful who 
should assist at a Mass and Office approved by 
him, which directly affirmed the Immaculate 
Conception, the same indulgences which his pre- 
decessors had granted for the Mass and Office 
of the Most Blessed Sacrament. But as this 
was not enough to repress the boldness of the 

For a list of these Constitutions, see Passaglia, vol. i. sec. i. art. i. 


opponents, the Pope issued another decree, in 
which he strongly reprobated the conduct of 
those who dared to affirm that the Roman 
Church celebrated the spiritual Conception or 
sanctification only, and not the real Conception 
of the Blessed Virgin. He excommunicated 
those who affirmed that it was heretical to main- 
tain that Mary was conceived without sin. And 
he designated the authors of such opinions as 
rash, perverse, and scandalous. But as the 
doctrine was not yet denned, he equally, and 
with like censure, forbad the contrary opinion 
to be held up as heretical. 

Innocent VIII., at the request of Elizabeth, 
the pious queen of Castille, established a Reli- 
gious community under the invocation of the 
Conception, and assigned them a blue habit, as 
a symbol of the immaculate purity of the Queen 
of Heaven. 

Leo X. not only confirmed the Office of the 
Immaculate Conception approved by Sixtus IV., 
but gave the privileges of a Jubilee on the Fes- 
tival to seven of the Roman Churches. 

Adrian VI. confirmed a confraternity in 
honour of the Immaculate Conception at Toledo, 
of which the Emperor Charles V. was the first 

Pius IV. confirmed the Council of Trent, in 
which it is declared that the Blessed and Imma- 
culate Virgin Mary was not included in what 
was there defined respecting original sin. 

As the publication of a corrected Breviary 
and Missal for the use of the whole Latin 
Church had been left by the Council to the 
Sovereign Pontiff, Pius V. accomplished this 


great work. Hitherto several different offices 
of the Conception had been used in various 
parts of the Church," 1 though that of Nogarolis, 
so called from its author, had been sanctioned, 
and had come into use in the Roman and some 
other Churches. This Office directly affirmed the 
Immaculate Conception. But as an Office was 
now required for the use of the universal 
Church, and as an injunction to adopt that 
particular Office universally would have been 
equivalent to a definition, it was superseded by 
the one which writers have often called the 
Office of Helsinus, as having originated through 
him, and already in use in various Churches. 
The Office of the Nativity was adopted with the 
substitution of the word Conception for that of 
Nativity. And thus the Feast became univer- 
sally extended, whilst the mystery was still 
designated in the Office as the holy Conception, 
and the most worthy Conception. To the Fran- 
ciscans the Pope confirmed the use of the Office 
of Nogarolis. Pius V. also condemned the pro- 
position of Baius, which maintained that, " No 
one except Christ is without original sin ; that 
hence the Blessed Virgin died because of the 
sin contracted in Adam, and all her afflictions in 
this life, as of the other just, were the penalties 
of actual or original sin." And to stop the con- 
troversial preaching, and the publication of con- 
troversial writings, which were often rash, and 
occasioned scandals to the faithful, Pius V. im- 
posed silence on both sides in so far as the use 

* There were at least five offices in nse, those of Noparolis, of Bernard 
de Bustis, of Quiguonez, of liobert Gagnini, and of Ilelsinus. 


of modern languages was concerned, until the 
question should be decided by the Holy See. 
He also confirmed the decrees of Sixtus IV. 
Such were the protective acts exercised towards 
the pious belief by a Dominican Pope, trained 
in the school of St. Thomas. 

Sixtus V., in his Constitution Inefabilia, 
called the mystery the most pure Conception. 

Clement VIII. raised the feast to the rank 
of a Double Major Festival throughout the 
Church, and confirmed the acts of his prede- 
cessors. He also approved the catechism of 
Bellarmin, which expressly teaches that, " Our 
Lady is full of grace, for she was never at- 
tainted with the stain of any sin, either original 
or actual, mortal or venial." 

Paul V., considering that " the opinion which 
asserted that the Blessed Virgin was conceived 
in original sin, gave rise to great offences 
against God, scandals and tumults," forbad 
that opinion to be publicly maintained in any 

Gregory XV., to put a stop to the same 
scandals, prohibited even private discourses 
against the pious belief. And as one Religious 
Order had continued to use in their Office the 
word Sanctification, he enjoined that the word 
Conception should be everywhere adopted. 

Alexander VII. declared it to be the ancient 
sentiment of the faithful, that the Most Blessed 
Virgin, by special grace and privilege, and in 
view of the merits of her Son, was preserved 
exempt from original sin, and this at the mo- 
ment of her soul's creation and of its infusion 
into the body, and that almost all Catholics 


embraced this sentiment. And that it was in 
this sense that the Church celebrated the Festi- 
val of the Conception with her solemn rites. 

Benedict XIV. addressed an Encylical Letter 
to all the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, 
and Bishops of the Church, in which, recalling 
to mind the approval which Clement VIII. had 
given to the Catechism of Bellarmin, that cate- 
chism in which the doctrine of the Immaculate 
Conception is so explicitly affirmed, he urged 
his brethren in the episcopacy in the most vivid 
language, to adopt it for the instruction of their 

Everything had now been done short of an 
actual and formal decision, and the implicit 
faith of the Church had everywhere come out 
into explicit expression ; and during the Pon- 
tificate of Gregory XVI., the Bishops, the 
Religious Orders, and the other great institu- 
tions of the Church, were petitioning the Holy 
See from every quarter, and urging for a final 
definition. This ardent, this vehement desire, 
became yet more widely manifested when the 
present Pontiff ascended the Chair of Peter. 

Moved by so many entreaties, and by his 
own veneration and love towards the Mother 
of God, says an authentic document, * Pius 
IX., at the commencement of his Pontificate, 
confided to twenty of the most eminent theolo- 
gians taken from the secular and regular clergy, 
the commission of studying the question of the 
Immaculate Conception with the greatest care, 

* Narratio Actornm Sanctissimi Domini Nostri Pii IX. Pont. Max. super 
arjjumento de immaculate Deiparse Virginia Conceptu. Publisliwi at 
Rome by order of the Sovereign Pontiff. 


and of stating their opinions in writing. For 
the same object he also instituted a commission 
of Cardinals to the number of two-and-twenty 
of that illustrious body. 

Forced by well-known events to remove from 
his See, the Holy Pontiff issued from Gaeta 
that Encyclical Letter, in which he demanded 
of the Bishops of the Catholic world, that they 
would, in the most clear and explicit terms, 
make known what was the piety of their faith- 
ful diocesans towards the Immaculate Concep- 
tion of the Mother of God, and what above all 
was their own opinion and desire : and invited 
them to order public prayers to God, that He 
would deign to shed upon them the light of His 
Holy Spirit. 

The theological consultors went on with their 
labours, and from the development of Holy 
Scripture, the testimony of Fathers, tradition, 
the acts of the Church, and of the Sovereign 
Pontiffs, as also from the well-known declaration 
of the Council of Trent in its decree relative to 
original sin, they came to the conclusion that the 
Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God 
could be denned, and that the definition was 

In the meantime, knowing perfectly the gra- 
vity of the question, and ardently desiring to 
proceed with all the maturity possible, says the 
document which I am continuing to quote, the 
Sovereign Pontiff judged that he should spare 
no pains and omit no counsel that might be 
taken, in order that the question might be 
examined under every aspect and in all its bear- 
ings, and that with the greatest and most scru- 


pulous care. After he returned to the city, 
he therefore appointed a special commission, 
composed of a select number of the same theo- 
logians, under the presidency of the late learned 
and illustrious Cardinal Fornari. That Special 
Commission held many sittings in the course 
of the years 1852 and 1853, in which it weighed 
anew, and with the utmost exactness and care, 
the arguments from all the sources above enu- 
merated, calculated to demonstrate the Immacu- 
late Conception of the Virgin Mother of God, 
and to resolve all the difficulties that had at 
any time been raised against it. They finally 
drew up a summary of their labours which was 
unanimously approved both by the theologians 
who formed the Commission, and by the Cardi- 
nal who presided over it. They then demanded 
the opinion of a particular Council of Cardinals, 
to the number of twenty-one, who having assem- 
bled together, after a searching and thorough 
examination of all things, judged in their wis- 
dom that it was possible and fitting to define 
the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of 
the Most Glorious Virgin.' 

In the meantime, those six hundred and three 
replies from Bishops were received from time to 
time, according to the distance of the country 
from which they were written. And, by order 
of the Sovereign Pontiff, these replies were 
printed in nine volumes with an appendix, with 
which were also included letters from Ecclesi- 
astical bodies, Religious Orders, Sovereigns, 
municipal corporations, and other associations, 
humbly petitioning for the declaration of the 
doctrine. Sundry able treatises, written with 


the same view, were also added in this volumi- 
nous collection. 

From this summary statement of the facts, 
every person can easily comprehend what care 
and mature deliberation the Sovereign Pontiff 
has employed in the examination of this ques- 
tion ; what eagerness the Catholic Episcopate 
have testified for the definition, and what ardent 
piety the faithful of the entire world have con- 
fessed for the holy mystery which is its object. 

After all these preparations, and after sacri- 
fices and prayers had been offered up from 
every part of the earth, his Holiness invited a 
certain number of Prelates from each country 
to Rome, as representatives of the hierarchy, 
whilst he expressed his readiness to welcome as 
many other Bishops as could conveniently come. 
A hundred and fifty Archbishops and Bishops 
responded to the call, among which number 
were representatives of many of the most ancient 
and illustrious Sees and Hierarchies in the world. 
There were others who represented hierarchies 
that had been either revived or established in 
our own day. From Asia and the East to 
North America and the far West, from the 
shores ^of the Baltic to Australia, and the Isles 
of the Great Pacific, the Church was there in 
her chief pastors assembled around the supreme 
Head of the Church, and the Chair of Catholic 

On four several days this venerable assem- 
blage of Bishops met, under the presidency of 
three distinguished and learned Cardinals, and 
the Papal Bull, drawn up and prepared for its 


final revision, was laid before them, and every 
part of it was freely discussed. 

After the episcopal deliberations on the form 
of this momentous document were concluded, 
the Pope conferred upon it in secret Consistory 
with his Cardinals, who constitute his own espe- 
cial Council. 

All was now ready, and on the eighth of 
December, the Festival of the Immaculate Con- 
ception, in the ever-memorable year 1854, dur- 
ing the celebration of a solemn Mass which the 
Supreme Pontiff offered up, surrounded by a 
hundred and fifty-two mitred Bishops, fifty- 
three Cardinals, more than two hundred pre- 
lates of an inferior order, a vast body of clergy 
from many countries, and some thirty or forty 
thousand people, who crowded the vast Basilica 
of St. Peter's ; Cardinal Macchi, the Dean of 
the Sacred College, advanced to the Pontifical 
throne, accompanied by an Archbishop of the 
Greek rite, and an Archbishop of the Armenian 
rite, and by twelve of the senior Archbishops of 
the Western Church, as witnesses and sup- 
porters, and addressed to the Pope these 
words : 

" For a long time, Most Blessed Father, has 
the Catholic Church most ardently wished and 
entreated with all her desires, that, in your 
supreme and infallible judgment, you would de- 
fine the Immaculate Conception of the Most 
Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God, for the 
increase of her praise, glory, and veneration. 
In the name of the Sacred College of Cardinals, 
of the Bishops of the Catholic world, and of all 
the faithful, we humbly and earnestly entreat of 


you, that, on this solemnity of the Conception 
of the Most Blessed Virgin, our common vows 
may be fulfilled. 

" In the midst, then, of this oblation of the 
august and unbloody Sacrifice, in this temple, 
sacred to the Prince of the Apostles, surrounded 
by this solemn assemblage of the Sacred College, 
the Bishops and the people, deign, Most Blessed 
Father, to lift up your apostolic voice, and to 
pronounce the dogmatic decree of the Immacu- 
late Conception of Mary, at which there will 
be joy in heaven, and great exultation on the 

To these words the Pontiff answered, that he 
willingly received the prayers of the Sacred 
College, the Bishops, and the people, but, that 
they might be heard, it was necessary to invoke 
the Holy Ghost. Then the Veni Creator 
jSpiritus was entoned, and taken up by the 
immense assemblage of the people. And after 
the sublime supplication, thundered from thirty 
thousand voices, had died away, there was a 
breathless silence, and the Pope most deeply 
moved, and with his face bathed in tears, read 
to that silent but agitated assembly, the decree 
of the Immaculate Conception, and solemnly 
defined, that: 





Such is the solemn definition for which so 


many prayers and entreaties had been sent to 
Rome, and for which the whole Catholic Epis- 
copacy had been interrogated. And such is the 
wisdom, patience, care, diligence, deliberation, 
attention to the sentiments of the Episcopacy, 
and even of the people of the Catholic world, 
the ripeness of council, and the earnestness of 
prayer, with which the Holy See proceeds be- 
fore denning a doctrine. 




THE sum and conclusion which results from 
this exposition is, that the Immaculate Concep- 
tion of the Mother of our Redeemer is as ancient 
as the mystery of the Redemption. It forms a 
component part of that grand scheme of human 
reparation disposed before the ages in the all- 
conceiving mind of Eternal Wisdom. The first 
intonations of the mystery reach our ears from 
the earthly Paradise. The words of the Al- 
mighty resound across the ages from the Book 
of Genesis. And amidst the cries of woe and 
distress from our apostate progenitors, amidst 
God's terrible denunciations of their crime, 
amidst the tempest of maledictions which come 
pouring on the world, amidst the awful curses 
with which the wrath of the Eternal overwhelms 
the infernal author of our ruin, there breathe 
tender notes of His love for man, which prelude 
the solution of the world's catastrophe. They 
announce the coming of a new Mother, a Mother 
of life, a Mother who, as well as her offspring, 
shall be victorious over the devil, and shall pass 
untouched by his evil powers to the fulfilment of 


her great office, And the first intimation of the 
Gospel of peace is the proclamation of that Im- 
maculate Mother. 

And as the Old Testament begins by pro- 
claiming her, so the New Testament begins with 
words addressed to her from Heaven : Hail, 
full of grace. The Lord is with thee. That 
is, as an ancient Father writes, " Hail, formed 
in grace.""" Hail, in whom God always dwells. 
Hail, whose grace is coextensive with thy 
nature. And thus from the beginning the 
truth was sown both in the minds of the Fathers 
and in the hearts of the faithful. But there 
were some doctrines, which, for the attaining 
of the mystery of salvation, shone forth at 
once, like the sun in the mid-day, through the 
preaching of the Church. Others remained in 
the consciences of pastors and people, like en- 
folded and half-opened buds, to flower out and 
bloom in all their beauty, as a universally and 
joyously proclaimed belief, when the moment 
should arrive for the greater glory of God and 
the consolation of the elect. 

For from the very limitation of the human 
soul, and the nature of the faculties which are 
the recipients of truth, and which are not de- 
stroyed or fettered, but animated, exalted and 
freed by the gifts of grace ; and from the 
limited and mysterious mode in which the 
light of truth is communicated to the soul ; 
the result is, that truth dwells not in us with 
the unchangeableness of death, but with the 
expansiveness of life. That light of truth leads 

* Inter Opera Origenis. 


to the rejection of profane novelties exterior 
to what is already believed and established, but 
hinders not such progress as successive explica- 
tions of its own principles would give, whilst 
leaving those principles always one and the same. 
" He must be an enemy of God and men," says 
St. Vincent of Lerins, " who denies that ad- 
vancement can be made in the knowledge of 
religion. But to advance in faith is not to 
change the faith. For to perfect anything, it 
must abide in its own nature whilst it receives 
some increase ; and it is not a progress, but a 
change, when anything ceases to be what it was 
in order to become some other. Let a holy emu- 
lation animate the individual members as well as 
the whole body of the Church : that each age 
may arise above the one preceding in the 
science, the intelligence, and the relish of divine 
things, yet without departing from the same 
sense, from the same faith, and the same unal- 
terable dogmas, The human body grows and 
strengthens with years, but it always continues 
to be one and the same body. Yet great is the 
difference in the same man between his youth 
and his matured age. The condition of his 
state is changed, but not the substance of his 
nature. If portions of the body gather growth 
with time, that growth was comprised in the 
vital principles from their origin, so that no- 
thing new has made its appearance in the man, 
but it was really in him in his youth, though hid- 
den. Wherefore the rule and measure of grow- 
ing to perfect proportions is, age insensibly 
unfolding the various parts which the wisdom 
of the Creator has formed in the child. And 


the doctrines of the Christian religion must 
follow the same laws of increase ; with years 
they must be consolidated, with time they must 
be expanded, -with ages they must be exalted ; 
yet so that they remain uninjured and uncor- 
rupted, and retain a full and perfect harmony 
in all their parts, without diminution of their 
sense, or change of their properties, or altera- 
tion of what has been decreed." Thus in the 
year 434, spoke Saint Vincent of Lerins in his 
famous Commonitorium against heresies, writ- 
ten chiefly in defence of the decree of Ephesus, 
which had proclaimed Mary to be the Mother 
of God. And the reader will not fail to see 
that every word of this beautiful exposition 
applies as freshly to the decree of her Immacu- 
late Conception as they did fourteen hundred 
years ago to that of her divine Maternity. 

When the Council of Ephesus decreed that 
in Christ there is but one sole person, when 
that of Chalcedon decreed that in the same 
Christ there are two natures, and when the third 
Council of Constantinople defined that Christ 
had two wills ; these were not new doctrines, 
though they were new as dogmatical defini- 
tions. They were only the developments of 
that article of faith, that Christ is true God 
and true Man, and the only begotten Son of 
the Father. And the explication of this leads 
necessarily to our saying, that there is but one 
personality in Christ that of the divine Word : 
two natures the divine and the human; and 
consequently, two wills one proper to the 
divine nature, the other resulting from the 
human nature. 


And so in the doctrine of the Immaculate 
Conception of Mary. It is nothing new. It 
is but an explication of the grace, and of the 
supereminent purity which the Church has 
always attributed to the Blessed Virgin. It is 
but an explication of that high sense in which 
she was ever Blessed and ever Virgin. For 
the Immaculate Conception is but the expres- 
sion of the ever virginal integrity of her soul. 
If the Church had said anything tending to 
diminish the idea, which she has ever enter- 
tained of the sanctity of that sublime creature, 
then she would have uttered something new ; 
but what she has spoken is contained in that 
idea, as a consequence is contained in its prin- 
ciple, or as a particular in its universal. 

It was always held implicitly or of pious 
belief, it is now held explicitly and proclaimed 
of Catholic faith. In the former ages it was 
believed with the heart unto justice, but in our 
own, confession of it is made with the mouth 
unto salvation. For in the ages past, faith in 
the great grace of Mary had bloomed into the 
light out of the great heart of the Church, 
in prayers, devotions, festivals, and God had 
answered them by graces, protections, miracles; 
and that faith was all but formally denned. 
Pius IX. has simply proclaimed that the Church 
believes, what she does believe. And all that 
is new is the gladness with which the children 
of the Church behold that their faith in their 
Mother's privilege has obtained its becoming 
position in the formulary of faith. " And in 
very truth," says the Sovereign Pontiff, in his 
Apostolic Letter, proclaiming the definition, 


" through the most deeply rooted sense of the 
Church, through her authoritative teaching, 
zeal, science and wisdom, the doctrine of the 
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin 
is every day more magnificently explained, 
declared, confirmed, and propagated to all the 
people of the Catholic world and to the nations 
at large. Whilst the illustrious monuments of 
venerable antiquity of the Eastern and Western 
Church most strongly bear witness, that it has 
always existed in the Church as received from 
those who preceded, and is stamped with the 
character of a revealed doctrine. For the 
Church of Christ, the careful guardian and 
assertor of the doctrines deposited in her keep- 
ing, changes nothing in them at any time, 
diminishes nothing, adds nothing : but with all 
industry, by faithfully and wisely treating 
ancient things, delivered down from antiquity, 
and spread abroad by the faith of the Fathers, 
she studies so to eliminate and burnish them, 
that those ancient dogmas of celestial doctrine 
may receive evidence, light, distinctness, whilst 
they retain their fulness, integrity, propriety, 
and may grow only in their own kind, that is, 
in the same doctrine, the same sense, and the 
same belief." 

Mary is the Immaculate, as she is the Virgin 
and the Mother of God. As the two latter 
designations mark her position in the scheme of 
Redemption, so the former denotes her position 
in the scheme of grace. And the whole of 
God's plan for raising human sanctification to 
its highest term, in a crowning example and a 
masterpiece of redeeming power, comes out to 


view. The ascending scale of sanctities is com- 
pleted. That mystical ladder ascends from the 
earth in Jacob's vision, and the angels ascend 
and descend upon it, and God Himself is lean- 
ing on it, and on its topmost degree, above 
the ascent of every other created sanctity, is 
placed the Immaculate Mother of God. The 
interval between the thrones of the Saints, 
and the throne of Jesus, is filled up. The 
Psalm sings of Christ in His glorious king- 
dom, that " The, Queen stood at His right 
hand in a garment of gold, encircled with 
variety." She occupies the first of the many 
mansions which her Son went up to Heaven to 
prepare. Most truly she is but a creature, and 
Jesus is her Creator. But what a creature ! 
Founded in original grace and the Mother of 
her Creator. All the saints were sinners once, 
but Mary was always the dear child of God. 
By her formation in grace, above the saints; 
by her maternity, above the angels ; her posi- 
tion in the universe is clearly defined, its causes 
understood, her influence explained. 

If the first of her glories in point of time is 
the last pronounced, it is because it was not so 
essential as those of her virginity and maternity 
for explaining the fundamental dogma of the 
Incarnation. Yet what an illumination does it 
throw upon all the mysteries of grace, as upon 
all the truths of faith. And how it advances a 
shield of light against the perverse deniers of 
the mystery of sin. For what does it show us ? 

First, it beams upon us rays reflected from 
the infinite holiness of Jesus. Then it reveals 
the wonderful care with which the way was 


kept pure and prepared for His coming into the 
world. Again, it shows how God abhors that 
culpable contamination in which the human race 
derives its origin. The Holy Spirit would not 
work the mystery of the Incarnation in one who 
had been infected by its venom. Nor would the 
Son of God take flesh, or maternal guidance in 
His youth, from one who had known that 
hideous defilement. Mary is " the bridge from 
God to man" across the unclean gulf. Jesus 
would call no one His Mother who had emerged 
from that gulf, or who bore upon her the re- 
membrance of dishonour. 

Then her primal grace is a light from the 
infinite purity and sanctity of God. For inex- 
haustible as are His mercies for sinners ; rich as 
are, beyond our comprehension, His rewards for 
the regenerated and the just ; ineffable as are 
the ways in which He gives Himself to the 
saints, yet she in whom He is to take His 
earthly life, she in whom He is to hear and 
obey the will of His Father, must have a sanc- 
tity such that a greater cannot be imagined 
in a mere creature, a sanctity coextensive with 
existence, and a purity on which the shadow 
of ungodliness cannot rest even for a moment 
of time, or of any culpability, whether original 
or actual, mortal or venial. 

Then the light from the mystery shows from 
a new point of view, how the Son of that Imma- 
culate Mother was perfect God yet perfect man. 
For He broke down the universal laws of death 
and sin in the fallen human race, and reversed 
the conditions of the divine decree by a most 
singular exception from its tendencies, that He 


might obtain most pure flesh from a pure 
source. For the primitive integrity of human 
nature was not transmitted to her, but He re- 
established it in her, that she might be a most 
pure mansion for His Godhead. Her sacred 
Conception, then, is a light from His divine 
personality as from His united natures. 

Then what an illumination streams forth to 
gladden us from her glorious redemption. It 
lifts up our faith to higher knowledge of the 
virtues of the Cross. It shows us that Christ 
has effected a richer redemption than comes 
within our own experience. 

Again, Mary's Conception throws a light for 
us upon the freedom of Almighty God from 
necessity. What is a law of necessity in fallen 
man is no necessity with his Creator. Neither 
the act of Adam nor the act of Satan can 
restrain His graces or His favours. He can 
consult His goodness rather than His justice. 
He can arrest corruption as He wills, and make 
it fly before His face. Nor is there anything in 
the fallen creature, at whatever moment of 
existence, to which the grace of Christ cannot 
have access where He so wills it, and His 
honour is concerned. And in one glorious ex- 
ample He has put before us the height and 
depth, the length and breadth of His generosity, 
and displayed the full extent of the munificence 
with which He can protect and save. 

Then again, from Mary's innocence how does 
light flow back to the primal innocence of Para- 
dise. The second Mother is created in innocence 
as the first. But her graces are drawn from the 
deep rich fountains of her Son and Saviour's 


blood. And Satan has not power even to touch 
her with a finger. Incomparably more holy is 
the Mother of the living- than was that mother 
of the dead. Wonderful reparation ! Adam is 
created a living soul, and from his innocent side 
Eve is drawn forth, living and innocent, and she 
becomes the cause of his destruction. Mary is 
created in life from the side of Jesus ere He is 
conceived in her womb, and she becomes the 
Mother of Salvation to Adam and all his race. 

To what region of faith can we turn our eyes, 
but from the Immaculate Mary a new light is 
reflected on them ? Sometimes it is a light 
direct, sometimes a light by contrast. The 
sacraments spring from the Body of Christ, and 
that very Body is the greatest of the sacra- 
ments. But the body of Christ sprang from 
Mary. Yet she receives the fruits of the sacra- 
ments before they are instituted, and in a man- 
ner altogether preeminent. For baptism she 
receives the gift of original justice, and of sanc- 
tifying grace. And the Holy Ghost confirmed 
her then with His enduring gifts. She is thus 
prepared to possess the body of the Lord, a 
Eucharist indeed, through which she renders 
incessant thanks to God. But first come those 
divine espousals, that union with the Holy 
Spirit, which sheds light upon all pure and 
divine unions whereby Christ is brought forth 
in the soul. And in that most pure creature, as 
in His sanctuary, did the great High Priest 
make the first oblation of Himself unto His 
Father. And here is a light of contrast for our 
humiliation. Penance she needed none; for 
the unction from the Holy One did ever anoint 


and sanctify each power of her nature from the 
moment of her animation to the instant of her 

Whether, then, we would consider the power 
of Jesus over creation, sin, death, or the devil, 
we shall find the highest example of its exercise 
in Mary. Or whether we would consider His 
condescension, love, and goodness to His crea- 
tures, we have still the most beautiful instance 
in Mary. Or whether we would consider the 
depths of the riches which He won upon His 
Cross, and the generosity with which He pours 
out those inexhaustible treasures, we shall find 
their most profuse expenditure was on His Im- 
maculate Mother. Or whether we search the 
conditions of union with Jesus, we can contem- 
plate them here in their most rare and absolute 
perfection. For to Mary alone of all saints can 
we add a perfecting clause to the Psalmist's 
words: With the holy Thou shalt be Holy, 
and with the elect Thou shalt be elected, and 
with the immaculate Thou shalt be immaculate. 
Or if we would contemplate the final end of all 
God's works, His praise and glory in His saints, 
it is Mary who renders Him the greatest praise 
and glory, and her primal graces are the deep 
foundation from which that towering glory 

In short, the Immaculate Conception of Mary 
is a summary of all the truths of the Gospel, 
displays all the graces of her Son, strikes down 
countless errors, and puts sin, and the author of 
sin, beneath her stainless feet. 

Who, then, could have faith and understand- 
ing, and yet ask, Why at length the doctrine 


has been defined ? The general prayer of the 
Church for the definition is the profoundest 
answer to the question. When the Church is 
moving through its length and breadth with 
desire to see a doctrine of faith exalted, the 
Holy Ghost is stirring in the Church. And of 
this we may be certain, both the principles of 
faith, and the facts of history will bear it out, 
that the Church never rises to a loftier profes- 
sion of her doctrine, or gives a greater expan- 
sion to her devotion, but it brings within her 
bosom a vast increase of grace, and great inter- 
ventions of that Providence which rules her 
destinies. The Blessed Leonard of Porto Mau- 
rizio, in a celebrated letter which shaped out 
the whole way in which this definition has been 
brought about, records, that he once said to Bene- 
dict XIV. that whoever should define the Im- 
maculate Conception would immortalize himself 
in this world, and gain a great crown of glory 
in Heaven. "But," said the servant of God, 
" of necessity there must first be a ray of light 
descending from on high. And if that ray of 
light does not descend, it is a sign that the time 
marked out by Providence has not arrived, and 
we must still bear with patience a most grievous 
embroilment of the world." 

That we have reached a turning point in the 
Church's history, no thoughtful Catholic for a 
moment doubts, but what her future shall be, 
is the secret of the Heavens. Yet, when the 
Church, uncompelled by any new error, bursts 
forth spontaneously with the solemn profession 
of one of her sublimest mysteries, it is a sure 


sign that a renewed vigour is animating her 
and strengthening her interior life. 

If the decree be not directed against any 
novel heresy, it strikes at old heresies which 
were never so rife, so active, or so malignant, 
as at present. When it was denned that Mary 
is Mother of God, it was to oppose heresies 
respecting the Incarnation. The evil which 
now spreads like a cancer in the world beyond 
the Church, is ignorance or heretical- denial 
about that tremendous fact on which the neces- 
sity of the Incarnation rests. Disbelief in ori- 
ginal sin is one of the developments of Protes- 
tantism. In our own country it is a tendency, 
on the Continent it is an accomplished deed. 
But even here, the grasp of opinion on that 
awful fact in human nature, for it is but opinion, 
is feeble. Its nature is not appreciated, its 
fruits are not understood, unless it be by a 
small minority who shrink from the name of 
Protestant, though they cannot escape from Pro- 
testant communion. Formal rejection of regene- 
ration, through the rejection of the one means 
appointed for its attainment, is a clear indication 
of deep errors respecting the character of that 
disease, for which Christ has appointed the one 
sole remedy of baptism. What is born of flesh is 
flesh, says the Son of God. You must be born 
again. Unless a man be born of water and 
of the Holy Ghost he cannot enter into the 
kingdom of God. 

A religionism self-righteous and self-sufficient, 
steeped in the bitters of its own spirit, like the 
souls of the Pharisees, its votaries living on 
the sentimentalities supplied by the emotions of 


excited nature, .and sinking helplessly when they 
subside and reaction sets in ; self-deluded all the 
while by a use of Scripture language and of 
Scripture imagery, in which, not the sense of 
God, but their own is clothed ; this religion- 
ism has generated a spiritual pride more dan- 
gerous and self-worshipping than any other 
kind of pride, whether sensuous or intellectual, 
for it seizes upon the very essence of man, and 
holds its dwelling in his inmost conscience. 
Emotion, springing from the fountains of senti- 
mentality, the self enjoyment of that interior 
sensuousness, and the use of the words of the 
Bible as an organ for its development, this 
constitutes the inward essence of Evangelical 
religionism, whilst its out \vard works all indi- 
cate the interior craving for the like senti- 
mental excitement and self-indulgence. Now, 
this spirit, which finds all within, and asks for 
nothing from without, which confounds its own 
emotions with personal inspiration terrible 
source of spiritual pride, cannot admit of ex- 
terior means of grace. It cannot admit of 
the healing medicines of humility, of the very 
nature of which it is ignorant. To bend to 
an exterior authority, to believe that God has 
established such an authority in any real 
sense, to obey it, to humble the heart to re- 
ceive grace from objective channels, to obtain 
a sacred strength from Christ through the 
ministry of His Church, that very provision 
which He has made for securing the needful 
preparation of humility and obedience, how can 
this be in those who cannot see that God has 


ordained anything good which is exterior to 

And as old traditions die away for want of vital 
nourishment, this self-sufficient spirit developea 
itself unchecked to its natural consequences. He 
who draws his spiritual resources from within 
himself, will have subjective tendencies, and will 
be continually confounding the lights of Heaven 
with his own. It was to remedy this danger 
that God provided those outward means of sane* 
tification, and required our submission to them. 
The instincts of pride are confounded with th$ 
inspirations of God. And the next step will be- 
to take our resources as if really our own. And 
so comes the blind conclusion, that our origin 
was not sinful but innoxious. 

Sound knowledge of the remedy implies sound 
knowledge of the disease. And the rejection of 
regeneration by baptism will lead to the rejec- 
tion of original sin, a doctrine which is already 
sapped and undermined in almost all the sects 
of Protestantism. And that doctrine is the 
foundation which underlies the whole struc- 
ture of Christianity. 

And what has the Church done ? She has 
proclaimed as a fact laid up in the deposit of 
her faith, that one, and only one, and that one 
the Mother of God, by a most singular miracle 
of grace, and a prodigious act of redeeming 
power, was exempted from the stain of original 
sin. And by that decree she has given the 
most striking proof and confirmation that could 
be given to her doctrine of the universality of 
original sin, and of that degeneration, injustice, 


and separation from God of which it is the 

Peter lives in Pius. And if he knows the 
Church, her aspirations, and her wants, he also 
knows the world, its diseases and necessities, 
better than the world knows its own. And it is 
not by diminishing truth, but by increasing its 
light, that he meets the difficulties he has to 
encounter. Nor does he look to the moment 
only, but to God, and to all time to come, for 
his reply. 

When the Church declares that Mary was 
without sin, she also declares that she would 
have been under sin if Christ had not saved her 
from it; and she emphatically proclaims that 
her case was most singular, and that all besides 
her are born beneath its dire infliction. That 
all have sinned, even the child of one day upon 
the earth. And that all stand in need of re- 
generation, and of a regeneration so unmistake- 
able as to the time and mode and authority of 
its application, and so sure in its effects, that no 
one may be haunted with the terrors of doubt 
as to whether they have, or have not, received 
its benefits. 

Mary, arising into the creation in unclouded 
purity, is the one bright star which makes more 
visible the darkness of the universal night of 
human conceptions. And the appearance of 
that Blessed one, illuminating by her immacu- 
late light the unclean gulf of original sin, is 
greeted with clamours and cries from the en- 
feebled sects of Protestantism. It is as if they 
had been struck by a terrible blow. Pride is 
offended that one so lowly should be so great, 


and that humility should be so supremely ex- 
alted. Nature, poor fallen thing, is indignant 
and disgusted in its self-sufficiency at such a 
revelation of grace. And the spectacle of its 
anger is as painful as it is instructive to con- 
template. May God give to that erring hu- 
manity the light to see those sacred truths 
of which this beautiful mystery is the last ex- 

Meanwhile German rationalism has charged 
Protestant evangelicalism with its inconsisten- 
cies, as exhibited in these outcries against the 
definition. The Protestant Ecclesiastical Ga- 
zette, of December 9th, 1854,* remonstrates 
with it in the following terms : " Why all this 
clamour on the part of orthodox Protestants? 
This belief is but the necessary and very natural 
consequence of their own principles, and it is 
surprising that the definition did not take place 
sooner, and that orthodox Protestantism had 

not long since proclaimed it The roots of 

the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of 
Mary extend in fact into the very depth of the 
substance of their own dogmatic system, and 
show both the weak sides and the corruption of 
the Evangelical Church. In substance it is a 
question on the historical fact of the holy and 

immaculate personality of Jesus Christ if 

they are not disposed to revise from top to bot- 
tom the theory of original sin, and our ortho- 
dox now desire it less than ever, there is 
no other part to take but to imitate the Catho- 
lics, and to deny the influence of original sin oa 

* From the Univers of January 26th, 1855. 


the human nature of Christ ; this will also lead 
to the liberating of His Mother, that is to the 
asserting; that she was conceived without original 
stain. This is what the Roman Church has 
done in our days, not arbitrarily, but pushed on 
by the force of a necessary consequence. Thus 
it is not possible to believe that Rome could 
refuse her sanction to the dogma of the Imma-r 
culate Conception. These things seem at this 
moment to have no direct influence on the Evan- * 
gelical Church, but before long we shall see the 
theologians of orthodox Protestantism driven at 
last to the necessity of acknowledging what is 
contained in their own principles, of which the 
Roman Church has done nothing but recognize 
a consequence, and sooner or later it will bring 
the orthodox to venerate the Virgin." 

But behind religionism is philosophism, upon 
which, as truths are diminished from the chil- 
dren of men, they in a sort of despair fall back; 
and faith in the phosphorescent lights of cor- 
rupted nature is held to be a better thing than 
faith in Christ. With the rationalists all men 
are born just, and with inherent powers for 
accomplishing their perfection. There is less 
of this misery with us than on the Continent, 
but it is the growing evil. With this class, as 
all are considered to be born in innocence, it 
is taken as an insult to human nature to pro- 
claim, that one alone is created innocent. But 
what is their grand philosophic cry? The 
perfectibility of man: the pagan's confidence 
in human resources for human happiness. This 
is upsetting religion, law, and policy, wherever 
it conies. Perfection is to be reached, and 


even equality of perfection, not through God's 
grace but by men's efforts by combinations of 
their energies, by working in the products of 
nature, by commerce in them, by ne\v social 
arrangements to come out of the conflict of 
opinions or of weapons, by enlightenment, that 
is, by the rejection of traditional wisdom, by 
fitting religion to each man's natural tastes, and 
so rejecting authority, priesthood, sacraments, 
and dogmas, by systems of secular education, 
by philanthropy, and social benevolence under 
mechanical arrangements. And out of some of 
these, or all of them, there is to come a regene- 
ration of society, and out of the regeneration of 
society there is to come a regeneration of the 
individual man. From what does all this arise 
but from faith in fallen human nature ? from 
the belief that man contains within himself, or 
draws from the natures around him, the sources 
of his own perfectibility ? Let us ask, perfecti- 
bility in what image ? Surely not in the image 
of God. 

But, behind all this, there is a deeper cause, 
a disease profoundly seated. It began in Pro- 
testantism it ends in this rationalism. Opinion 
has pushed away truth. Those sinking heresies 
no more understand the nature of truth than 
they understand the nature of perfection. Truth 
is one and unchangeable. It is to-day as it was 
in the beginning. It resides in God, it is given 
to us. It changes at no man's will, it bends to 
no man's inclination. It can no more grow 
from the mind which beholds it than the land- 
scape can grow from the eye which looks upon 
it. Man receives it from above, and although 



by his words he may awaken the minds of 
others to behold it, he does not originate it 
from himself. It is not in the senses, it is 
not in the instincts, it is not in the imagi- 
nation, it is in the light of God, and in His 
light ive see light. It is a deposit. " And 
what is this deposit? It is confided to thee, 
it is not invented by ; thee ; thou hast receiv- 
ed it, thou hast not devised it; it comes not 
of genius but of teaching ; it is not of private 
usurpation, but of public tradition ; it is 
brought to thee, not produced by thee ; thou 
art not its author but its keeper ; not its guide 
but its follower ; not its master but its ser- 
vant.""* It searches the conscience, and claims 
the undivided homage of the heart. It gives 
consent to the humble, but repels the proud, for 
it demands an absolute obedience and submis- 
sion to its dominion, yet when it has entered 
the soul it sets her free, and fructifies our 
reason with its light. It is the most positive 
of all things, and it must be believed before 
it can be fully received, for it is the reason of 
God and will not be proudly questioned, but 
obeyed. Grace is a necessary condition, for it 
raises, quickens and illuminates the inward pow- 
ers to see and hold the truth. But grace is not 
given beyond a' certain measure, and that mea- 
sure not the same to all, unless we invoke it by 
devoted and generous prayer, by self-sacrifice, 
and by denial of its enemy the flesh. 

Man, when he comes into the depths, despises. 
These are the words of Truth. When he dwells 

* S. Vincent. Lerin. Commonitorium. 


in the depths of his corrupted nature, he de- 
spises Truth. And, mysterious blindness, the 
more he sinks into the degradation of his na- 
ture, and the more he confides in the poverty 
of his unassisted reason, so much the less does 
he see of that degradation and nakedness. He 
cannot read the facts within his conscience, 
though written in fire. For pride is only made 
visible to its possessor in proportion as it 
begins to pass away, and humility is on the 

Now Mary is the highest example of human 
perfection and happiness. And this great fact 
strikes down a thousand theories. In every 
earthly sense of the word, she is weak, as 
she is also lowly, poor, and humble ; and 
yet she is perfect as no one else ever was 
perfect. And her perfection is the work of 
a sublime grace, which puts her nature in 
order, and sets her higher powers free in 
God. The Immaculate Conception is the 
mystery of God's strength in weakness, of His 
height in humility, of His glory in purity. 
And when we contemplate that glorious crea- 
ture, in whom, from the first instant of her 
creation, the image of God was so beautiful, in 
whom grace found no resistance, whose aspira- 
tions grew ever more divine ; when we contem- 
plate that living shrine of the Holy Spirit's fire ; 
when we look up to that animated temple of the 
Divinity, and behold her immaculate brightness, 
as clothed with the sun and crowned with the 
stars, and seated next her Son above Cherub 
and Seraph; and when we hear her truthful 
lips proclaim : The Lord hath looked down 


upon the humility of His handmaid : He hath 
lifted up the lowly ; our pride sinks down re- 
buked, our false ambition stands reproved, our 
sensuous strength betrays the weakness of its 
origin, and our confidence in the perfection of 
our nature is discovered to be that broken reed 
of which we had so often heard in vain. The 
condition of perfection is chaste humility, and 
the source of perfection is the grace of Christ. 
And that grace must come to us as Christ pre- 
scribes, and riot as we choose. 

How does her Immaculate Conception throw 
light into the words of Scripture concerning 
Mary. When the Archangel came to her on that 
embassy from God, he did not greet her by any 
human title, but he described her privilege. He 
did not say, Hail Mary, or Hail Virgin, or Hail 
daughter of David ; but he said Hail, full of 
grace. The Lord is with thee. And when 
Elizabeth saluted her arrival -with inspired 
words, she did not say, Blessed Mary, or Blessed 
Cousin ; but Blessed art thou amongst women. 
That is, farther removed from the curse art thou 
than all women. And when Mary sang her can- 
ticle in the joy of her heart, she sang of all her 
graces. She sang of her divine maternity, but 
also of all her earlier blessings. For what hymn 
to the grace of the Immaculate Conception can 
equal this ? 

My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my 
spirit hath rejoiced in God, my Saviour. The 
Lord had magnified her soul, that her soul might 
thus magnify its Lord. God is pre-eminently 
her Saviour, for He has saved her from the first 
touch of the curse. 


Because Tie hath regarded the humility of his 
handmaid. For, behold from henceforth all 
generations shall call me blessed. God looked 
on her humility, because the measure of her 
humility was the measure of His grace. And 
blessed indeed shall she be called, because never 
under the curse. 

For he that is mighty hath done great things 
to me ; and holy is his Name. Not one great 
thing, but great things. And He has done them 
to me, for to her alone they are done. And in 
what He has done for her, He has demonstrated 
that He is both holy and mighty. 

And his mercy is from generation to genera- 
tion to them that fear him. The Mother of 
Mercy breathes the inspirations of that mercy. 
From her greater gifts she inspires hope in those 
who have had less experience of the grace and 
the goodness of God. 

He hath shewed might in his arm : he hath 
scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. 
Let us remember that we are listening to her 
whom St. John saw in the heavenly vision. She 
is THE WOMAN, bearing THE man child in her 
womb. And in her prophetic inspiration sho 
glances back to the conflict in Heaven. She 
sees the arm of God put out against the proud. 
She sees Satan hurled down from his high place 
beneath her feet. She glances back to Paradise, 
and hears of the crushing of his head. She sees 
him lying in wait for her heel at her conception, 
and beholds him baffled of his prey. She sees 
him, king over all the children of pride, reigning 
in the hearts of mighty ones, who afflict the 
earth, oppose the truth, dishonour God ; and she 


sees God turning the deceits of their heart, their 
fondly cherished schemes to their destruction. 

He hath put down the mighty from their seats, 
and hath exalted the humble. And if He has 
exalted the humblest to the highest seat, Mary 
to a seat above the empty throne of Lucifer, so 
will He lift up each humble one in his degree. 

He hath filled the hungry with good things : 
and the rich he hath sent empty away. The 
just hunger still for greater justice, and grace 
calls for grace. But they who are full of them- 
selves and rich in their own conceits, are empty 
of God. 

He hath received Israel, his servant, being 
mindful of his mercy, as he spoke to Abraham, 
and to his seed for ever. He fulfilled His pro- 
mise to Abraham, He received Israel, when He 
received thee, and kept thee pure, and dwelt in 
thee, Immaculate Mother of God. He made 
the Gentiles Abraham's children, when He made 
Himself their brother, and thee their Mother, 
powerful intercessor for thy children. He 
taught us to despise the flesh, resist the world, 
and reject the devil, when He kept thee so pure 
from the corruption of the flesh, from the pride 
of the world, and from the influence of the devil, 
that thou mightest have power with Him. 

Immaculate and Most Blessed Virgin, Mo- 
ther of the Lord of our Salvation, pray to Him 
for us, thy children, who have recourse to thee. 



After I had written the fifth chapter, in which 
the perfection of the type of the species is ap- 
plied as a principle to the Immaculate Concep- 
tion. I found out to my surprise and gratification 
that St. Bonaventure had used the argument 
before me. Indeed, it would appear to have 
finally decided him for the doctrine. It forms 
the first part of his second Sermon on the 
Blessed Virgin, and is followed by the declara- 
tion of the doctrine, quoted in the fifteenth 
chapter. In the Venice edition of 1755, a doubt 
of its genuineness is raised, but on no other 
ground than that it asserts the Immaculate Con- 
ception. But no one acquainted with the Saint's 
peculiar style and method can, I think, doubt of 
its being from the pen of the Seraphic Doctor. 
I subjoin the passage divested of that termino- 
logy of the schools, which would have made it 
unintelligible to the ordinary reader. 

" Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with tliee. There 
can be no addition to the perfect. For that is not 
perfect to which addition can still be made. How 
can a house be said to be perfect when something 
yet remains to be done to it? As, then, the works 
of God are perfect, it must be admitted that every 
kind of creature, however vile, has its perfect mode 
of being, to which you can add nothing without 
changing its nature, and from which you can take 


nothing without injury to its perfection. For if 
you could add to what is made most perfect in each 
kind, God would not have made anything perfect, 
and would not appear from His work to be the 
supremely perfect workman. Not that God could 
not make additions so far as His infinite power is 
concerned, but because the creature has reached the 
limit of its capacity, for, from the fact of its being a 
creature God has created it in number, weight, and 
measure. For if the creature were always capable 
of greater good than it contained, it could never 
cease to ascend to greater good, and so could never 
be perfect, for it would always be aspiring higher. 
That the divine works might therefore be perfect in 
their kind, a certain limit is fixed to each creature, 
which it cannot in its nature exceed. Hence there 
are certain limits to the growth of plants and 
animals. But though every creature be constituted 
on this law, yet the rational nature is of all natures 
the highest in dignity, because it is designated for 
beatitude. And amongst all kinds of creatures it is 
the most perfect, because the rest are made for its 
sake, as all the Scriptures attest. But it must be 
noted, that, for the perfection of each kind of crea- 
ture it is required, that the individual examples of 
the kind be varied, so that, in the whole, the indi- 
vidual instances either exceed or are exceeded one 
by another. For if all were equal all would be in 
vain. If all the luminaries of Heaven were the sun, 
where would be the moon, and the stars, and 
the other planets? If all men were kings, who 
would be the subjects? There could be no command 
if men were all equal. And if in the body all the 
members were the eye, where would be the hearing 
and the touch and the taste? In this case there 
would be no human body. The individuals of the 
human race differ therefore from each other, and 


have gradations in nature, and even in grace, and in 
all the several gifts of God. Yet so that all are 
accumulated in some one, though distributed and 
possessed in part in the rest severally. Hence, 
according to the Philosopher, that horse is the best 
which has all the good in him which belongs to the 
rest of his kind. 

" Therefore, as in the Queen of the world all the 
gifts of God are accumulated, which are distributed 
in portions to other saints, she is the supreme indi- 
vidual in human nature. Wherefore, amongst mere 
creatures she is the sum of created perfection, and is 
in nothing defective. Hence St. Jerome says: 
4 Grace was given to the other saints in portions, but 
in Mary was the complete fulness of grace infused.' 
And from the authorities of St. Anselm and St. 
Bernard, it is evident that in her so great was the 
grace, and so great the wisdom, that in any creature 
not united with divinity, a greater could not be 
presented to the intelligence. What more could a 
creature receive than to have God subject to her as 
a Son? Is not this so wonderful and stupendous 
that it almost exceeds created limits? Hence St. 
Bernard exclaims: 'Stand in wonder at both, and 
chose at which to wonder most : at that most 
benignant condescension of the Son, or at that most 
eminent dignity of the Mother. Both astound us, 
and each is a miracle. For that God should obey a 
woman is humility without example; and that a 
woman should guide the will of God is sublimity 
without a parallel.' Because of this perfection, 
therefore, we say, Hai/, full of grace: by which 
words her supreme perfection is designated. For 
supreme perfection consists in two things, in the 
removal of all evil, and in the fulness of all good. 
For the presence of all good could not make any 
one blessed without the absence of all evil. For 


the absence of all evil is signified by the word //ai7, 
and the presence of all good by the words, full of 
grace. For a vessel is then full when no vacancy is 
left, and where if any more were added it could not 
be received. We say, therefore, Hail, full of grace. 

" Though it is here to be noted, that though Our 
Lady was full and overflowing with grace, yet she 
had four kinds of grace especially. First, Our Lady 
was full of prevenient grace in her sanctification, of 
grace preservative against the turpitude of culpabi- 
lity. Secondly, of fertilizing grace in the Concep- 
tion of the Son of God in virginal integrity. 
Thirdly, of grace adorning the beauty of her life 
and conversation, Fourthly, of grace consummating 
her glorification, a grace yet more perfecting because 
of her eminence of glory both in soul and in body. 

" I say, in the first place, that Our Lady was full 
of prevenient grace in her sanctification, that is, of 
grace preservative against the foulness of original 
sin, which she would have contracted from the cor- 
ruption of nature, had she not been prevented and 
preserved by special grace. For only the Son of 
the Virgin was exempt from original sin, and His 
Virgin Mother. For it is to be believed that by a 
new kind of sanctification, the Holy Spirit redeemed 
her in the beginning of her conception from original 
sin, (not that it was within her, but that it might 
have been within her,) and that He preserved her 
by a singular grace." 



THE narrative of the vision of Helsinus is 
published by Gerberon in the Appendix to St. 
Anselm's works, as found in various MSS., 
in some of which the story passes under St. 
Anselm's name as author, but without any good 
foundation for attributing it to him. 

Gerberon raises some historical objections to 
the narrative, on account of which he denies that 
any credit can be given to the tradition, viz.: 
that there is no mention in any history of "W il- 
liam the Conqueror having sent the Abbot Hel- 
sinus on a mission to the Danes : that if he had 
received any such information of their intended 
expedition, they would not have come upon him 
unprepared as he was : that Helsinus was not 
elected Abbot of Ramsey till 1080, and the al- 
leged vision occurred ten years before : that 
one of the narratives represents Helsinus as a 
monk of St. Augustine's, till he was made Abbot 
of Ramsey, and at the time of the Conquest the 
Abbot of St. Augustine's was Egelsinus. He is 
stated in Thorn's Chronicle to have joined Arch- 
bishop Stigand in raising the men of Kent, and 
leading them against the Conqueror. By this 
proceeding they drew his resentment upon them, 
and in consequence Stigand was deprived of his 
Archbishopric, and Egelsinus made his escape to 
the Danes and was never heard of again. 


In reply to these objections, it appears that 
Egelsinus, Abbot of St. Augustine's, was ap- 
pointed by King Edward to the care of Ramsey 
Abbev, on account of the infirmity of the Abbot.* 
Thorn's story of the men of Kent is considered 
doubtful by Lingard, yet Egelsinus certainly 
seems to have lost his Abbey, and to have been 
succeeded by Scotland, a Norman, in the year 
1068 or 69. If his voyage to Denmark was a 
flight instead of a mission, he may have gained 
information, that he turned to account with 
William. Lingard says, the King had been 
made " acquainted with the menaces of the Danes, 
and had made preparations adequate to the dan- 
ger." Egelsinus may then have been allowed to 
retire to Ramsey till he was actually elected 
Abbot of that monastery in 1080. 

A further difficulty not noticed by Gerberon 
nrises from the date alleged for the vision being 
1070, and the invasion of the Danes having 
taken place the year before. But this date 1070 
is only given in the margin, not in the body of 
the narrative. 

On the whole, there appears nothing in the 
narrative that may not be reconciled with the 
facts of history, as far as they are known to us. 
And the corroborative testimonies mentioned in 
the text are strong presumptions in favour of 
the truth of the tradition. 

Hist. Abb. Rams. Gale's Scriptores, vol. i. p. 461. 




OF DIVINE LOVE. Price 5s, (Seventh Thousand.) 


NERI, 8vo., price 2a. 6d. 

JESUS AND MARY, a Catholic Hymn Book. 

Price Is. (Tenth Thousand.) 




CATION -Price 3s. 




8vo., printed wrapper, price Is. 6d. 






to " ALL FOR JESUS.'') 



translated from various languages, for spiritual reading, with 
Prefaces, in forty volumes 8vo. Price 4s. per volume ; or sets com- 
plete, 8. 


Italian. Price 5s. 


NERI, arranged for every day in the year, and adapted to the Feasts 
of the Church. From the Italian. Royal 32mo., handsome frontis- 
piece, cloth lettered, price 4d. 

LONDON: Richardson and Son, 172, Fleet Street; 9, Capel Street, 
Dublin ; and Derby. 


a Pilgrimu-e of the Year 1854. By the RIGHT REV. BISHOP 
ULLATHORNE. Third Edition. Printed wrapper, is. 6d., super- 
fine cloth, frontispiece, gilt edges, zs. 


Taken from the larger one lately published in France, and brought 
over by the Bishop of Birmingham ; by far the best that has yet 
appeared : to which is annexed a brief Abstract of the Objects and 
Rules of the Confraternity : as also the new ticket of enrolment, to 
be filled np by Directors of Confraternities ; the whole in four pages, 
the size of the Manual, made so as to fo'd up in a prayer-book, or to 
suit a frame. It is intended principally for promoting the Devotion 
to La Salette amongst the poor, who may not afford to buy the 
Manual. By the Rev. JOHN WYSE, Priest of St. Anne's Church, 
Birmingham. Price id. 

FRATERNITY of LA SALETTE. I. The Hymn of the Confraternity. 
II. The Plaint of our Lady. III. Mary our Refuge. One Penny. 

A SERMON" Delivered in the Chapel of the 

English College at Rome, on the Festival of St. Thomas of Can- 
terbury, Dec. 21, 1853. By his Eminence CARDINAL WISEMAN, 
Archbishop of Westminster. Price one Shilling. 

DEVOTION to the HEART of JESUS; with an 

Introduction on the History of Jansenism. By the REV. FATHKH 
DALGAIRNS, Priest of the Oratory. Second Edition, superfine cloth 
lettered, price 35. 6d. 


OF THE FAITH, together with a Treatise on Mental Prayer, by the 
Ven. Father Louis De Ponte, S.J. Being the Translation from the 
original Spanish, by John Heigham. Revised and corrected. In Six 
Vols. To which are added, the Meditations on the Sacred Heart of 
Jesus. By the Ven. F. C. Borgo, S.J. Translated into English. The 
Work complete in Six Volumes, price i8s. Separate vols. 33. each, 


or, a Little Book of Spiritual Reading and Easy Prayers for Young 
Children. By a Mother. Demy i8mo, superfine cloth, gilt, price 2s. 


CHURCH. A Farewell Letter to the Parishioners of East Farleigh, 
Kent, by HENRY WILLIAM WILB^BFOBCE, M.A., late Vicar. Fourth 
Edition, revised. Price 2d. 

The BOYS' CEREMONIAL. By Father Crowther, 

Priest of the Eremite Order of St. Augustine &c., &c. With authority, 
frontispiece on steel and appropriate Engravings, superfine cloth, 
gilt edges, 6d.; cloth, 4d.; printed wrapper, 3d. 

In the press, 


LA SALETTE ; with the approbation of the Bishop of Birmingham, 
by the Rev. JOHN WYSE, Priest of St. Anne's Church Birmingham. 

LONDON: Richardson and Son, 172, Fleet Street; 9, Capel Street, 
Dublin ; and Derby.