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Full text of "The Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God"

THE IMMACULATE 
CONCEPTION 



WESTMINSTER BOOKS 

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TAULER. Meditations on the Life and Passion of our 

TV rf , T . ranslat , ed from the Latin by a Secular Priest. 
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cepnon of the Mother f God. New edition. Revised 
by the Very Rev. CANOK I tM . Introduction by th 
UISHOP or BIRMINGHAM. 

B. ANGELA OP FOUCNO. Book of the A7,w W 

1 " fnm hrr * > 
Tran " atcd 



THE IMMACULATE 
CONCEPTION OF THE 
MOTHER OF GOD* 

An Exposition by ARCHBISHOP 
ULLATHORNE^ Revised by 
CANON ILES, D.D., and with 
an INTRODUCTION by the 
BISHOP OF BIRMINGHAM 




ART AND BOOK COMPANY 
CATHEDRAL PRECINCTS 
WESTMINSTER M DCCCC IV 



EDITOR S PREFACE 

MY work has been principally that of verifying 
and correcting references. There are however 
some, chiefly very short ones and of minor im 
portance, which I have failed to discover, and 
these I have left as the author put them. The 
only important changes relate to SS. Anselm 
and Bonaventure; to the former has been attri 
buted a work probably written by his nephew, and 
to the latter the writings of an unknown author. 
Here, then, the citations must be taken as simple 
witnesses to contemporary, or nearly contem 
porary thought, although they cannot claim the 
additional value arising from connection with 
those two honoured names. I have substituted 
a clearer and more decisive passage from St 
Bernard s letter to the canons of Lyons in place 
of that originally given. The notes and ad 
ditions prepared by the author himself for a 
second edition I have put in as directed. 

D. I. 



CONTENTS 

CHAr. PAGE 

Introduction by Bishop Ilsley ix 

I The Office and Dignity of the Mother of God ... i 
II How the Fathers speak of the Dignity of the 

Mother of God 13 

III The Law of Preparation 25 

IV The Principle of Exception from Law ... ... 34 

V The Law of Gradation in Perfection ; and the 

Law of the Accumulation of Excellence ... 42 
VI In what sense are we to understand the Mystery 

of the Immaculate Conception ?... ... ... 54 

VII The Eternal Counsel of God 59 

VIII The Fall of the Angels 64 

IX Original Sin and its Effects 8l- 

X The Fall of Man 91 

XI Joachim and Anna ... ... ... ... ... -loi 

XII The Moment of the Immaculate Conception ... 107 

XIII The Voice of the Fathers 112 

XIV Mahomet and Martin Luther on the Immaculate 

Conception ... ... ... ... ... ... I2g 

XV The Voice of the Divines 135 

XVI The Voice of the Liturgy and the Voice of the 

Faithful 158 

XVII The Voice of the Episcopate 173 

XVIII The Voice of the Holy See 181 

XIX Conclusion 192 

Index of subjects ... ... ... ... ... 217 

Index of Scripture references ... ... ... 222 



INTRODUCTION 

IN the published " Letters of Archbishop Ulla- 
thorne " it is recorded (pp. 57 seqq.) that his 
admirable book on the Immaculate Conception 
was written in the year 1854, in the intervals of 
leisure which the author was able to find during 
the course of the canonical visitation of his dio 
cese. It was first published in the early part of 
1855. So great was the demand for it that it 
was reprinted several times from stereotyped 
plates. The author however contemplated a 
thorough revision of the book with emenda 
tions and considerable additions. He com 
menced the task, but did not complete it. 

The Jubilee of the definition of the Immacu 
late Conception has created a demand for a fresh 
issue of this valuable work; and it has seemed 
good to complete, as far as possible, the revision 
which the author took in hand but left unfinished. 
I have entrusted this work to the Very Rev. Canon 
lies ; and he has expended upon it a considerable 
amount of time and patient labour. Although he 
has not succeeded to his entire satisfaction in 
verifying all the quotations, yet what he has 
accomplished will considerably enhance the 
value of the book. 

In its revised form I hope that the intention 
and desire of its eminent author may be fulfilled 
in further promoting the devotion of our people 
to the Immaculate Mother of God. 

*j* EDWARD ILSLEY, 

Bishop of Birmingham. 
Oscott, A ugust 5 , 1 904 . 



The Immaculate Conception of the 

Mother of God 
* 

CHAPTER I 

The Office and Dignity of the Mother of God 

THE multitude that saw Jesus nailed to His Cross 
could have no doubts respecting His human na 
ture. 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, be 
fore 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 
virginity, an angel came and greeted her from 
heaven. They had to tell at full length the whole 
history about her, which is recorded but briefly 
in the Sacred Scriptures. They told how, in her 
retirement, the Archangel Gabriel came to her, 
and said : " Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with 
thee ; blessed art thou amongst women," and 
how Mary was troubled, and thought within her 
self about the meaning of this salutation ; and 
how the angel said : " Fear not, Mary, for thou 
hast found grace with God : behold thou shalt 



The Immaculate Conception 



conceive in thy womb, and shall 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 overshadow thee. And, therefore, also the 
Holy, which shall be born of thee, shall be called 
the Son of God." And Mary bowed herself down 
most meekly to the will of God, and said : " Be 
hold 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 intro 
duced the preaching of Jesus. 

Then the apostles went on to 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 in the highest, and 
on earth peace to men of good will." t 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 Mary grew together in the Church. In 
deed, it was impossible to separate them, with- 

* Luke i, 28-38. t Luke ii, 14. 



Mary s Office and Dignity 



out 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 Himself; you separate 
His divinity from His humanity, and thus you 
deny that He is the God-man. 

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 soul 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 into power a sect 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 vir 
ginity, 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 

* Cf. Epiph., Haeres., xxxi, 2. 



The Immaculate Conception 



recorded by his disciples. Thus St Irenaeus, the 
disciple of one of those apostolic men whom St 
John himself had trained, shows, 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 introduced, and brought the fruits of life to 
all men. "And," continues St Irenaeus, " 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 man 
kind had not tilled it; * and as he was formed by 
the hand of God, that is by the Word, for all 
things were made by Him;t .... 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 the second Adam 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 gene 
ration in the likeness of that of Adam. Why, 
then, instead of taking earth again, did God 
form His body from Mary r It was that the new 
formation might not be different from that which 
was to be saved, but the very same re-estab 
lished, with a due keeping 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, 

* Gen. ii, 5. + John i, 3. 
I 9. Iren. adv. Hseres. Ill, xxi, 10. 



Mary s Office and Dignity 



so Christ would be made of a virgin. And that, 
if He was born of the Virgin Mary, instead oi 
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 Mother 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 Gnostics 
taught that Jesus took no real flesh from Mary, 
but that He had only received an appearance 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." * Thus, they denied that 
the body of our Lord was in the Eucharist, be 
cause they did not believe that He had ever 
taken a body from Mary. And thus, they could 
not separate Jesus from Alary 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 de 
fend Mary as the true Mother of our Lord and 
Saviour. t He puts Mary forward as the defence 
of the mystery of Jesus. And he says, that the 
virginity and maternity of Mary was one of the 
mysteries which was the most spoken of through 
out the world. } And St Ireneeus, in repelling the 
same impiety, goes yet more deeply into the sub- 
ject of the blessed Virgin, and shews how, as 

* S. I gnat. Ep. ad Smyrn. vii. 

t Ad Eph. vii, viii, xix ; ad Smyrn. i. + Ad Eph. xix. 



The Immaculate Conception 



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 disciples 
of the apostles hold up the sound doctrine res 
pecting Mary, as a shield against each succes 
sive 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 throughout 
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 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 Nestorius; 
and he denied that when Jesus was conceived of 
Mary, the nature of man was united in one per 
son with the nature of God. And it was found 
that this blasphemy against Jesus could only be 
effectually repelled by solemnly proclaiming the 
blessed Virgin Mary to be the Mother of God. 
It was in that city of Ephesus, where she had 
dwelt with John, in that favoured city still 
breathing its remembrances of Mary, that the 
great council assembled which, by its proclaim 
ing 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 ot 
Mary s own city had heard but the first sounds 
which informed them of that decree, they broke 
out into a joy so rapturous and unbounded, and 

* Adv. Hsereses xxii, 4. 



Mary s Office and Dignity 7 

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 estab 
lished in the Creed, and then the prerogatives 
of Mary. Thus the first great council estab 
lished 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 succeeding coun 
cils henceforward, her privileges are ever more 
and 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 sepa 
rated Mary from Jesus. The Collyridians taught 
that Mary herself was born of a virgin, and so 
they took from her her own most singular privi 
lege; 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 bridegroom, a vir 
gin, whom the Father loved, whom the Son 
inhabited, whom the Holy Ghost ardently de 
sired." t 

It is this divine maternity of Mary which 
explains both her perfect excellence and her per 
fect holiness. It is the key to all her gifts and 
privileges. For the excellence of each creature 

* Cf. Epiph. adv. Hseres, xxxix or Ixxix, i. 
t S. Epiph. de Laudibus B. V. Mariae. 



8 The Immaculate Conception 

is to be found in the degree in which it resembles 
its Creator. And as the Son of God was the 
44 figure of the Father s substance," * as He was 
God, and as that Godhead filled His soul, and 
dwelt in Him bodily^ so that as far as the most 
perfect of human natures could go, 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 
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 sanctifying grace, one drop of 
which might have redeemed the world! And 

* Heb. i, 3. f Col. ii, 9. 



Mary s Office and Dignity 



from the moment of His conception He had al 
ready made His oblation, for as St Paul says : 
" Coming into the wo rid 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, O 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, ol 
which He said at a later time : " He that eateth 
My flesh and drinketh My blood, hath everlast 
ing life. . . . As the living Father hath sent Me, 
and I live by the Father, so he that eateth Me 
the same shall live by Me/ f 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 compre 
hend 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. 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 an 
other 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 4 
And which of the seraphs could ever say to the 

* Heb. x, 5, 6, 7. t John vi, 55, 58. 
J III, d. xxii, q. 3, a. 3 ; q. 3 ad 3 am . 



1O The Immaculate Conception 

Lord omnipotent : " Thou art my son, this day 
have I conceived Thee " r * 

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 other s eyes, 
and the soul of Mary is the mirror of the soul ot 
Jesus. And He puts His divine head upon her 
bosom, and drinks of her fountains " filled from 
heaven." f 

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 
sake of Israel, with what exquisite wisdom did 
He not endow the Mother of God for her far 
greater office towards Jesus r 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 salva 
tion 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 the paps that gave Thee 
suck." And He said : " Yea, more blessed are 
they who hear the Word of God and keep it." 

* Ps. ii, 7. t Hymn of the Church. + Luke ii, 51. 
Luke xi, 27, 28. 



Mary s Office and Dignity ii 

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 de 
served to bear Him. And hence Elizabeth gave 
her that greeting, " Blessed art thou that 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 bless 
ings to her soul than to her virginal frame, and, 
as St Augustine says, "she conceived Jesus more 
happily in her mind than in her womb." t 

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 St Paul reminds 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 children, as where 
He says : " If I am a Father, where is My hon 
our?" Hence on this subject St Methodius ad 
dresses 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 indebted, who 
has said : < Honour thy father and thy mother. 
And that He might fulfil His own law, and ex 
ceed all men in its observance, He paid all 
honour and all grace to His own Mother." II 

* Luke i, 45. t De Sancta Virginitate 3. 

Eph. v, I ; Exod. xx, 12. Mai. i, 6. 
II S. Method. De Simeone et Anna, quo die Dno in templo 
occurrerunt, x. 



12 The Immaculate Conception 

Hence Eusebius * says : " If you would know 
how great is the Mother, think how great is the 
Son." Hence, again, St Augustine : " No heart 
can conceive, no tongue can express, the effect of 
the dignity and grace " of her maternity. And, 
lastly, Eadmer, that "to proclaim this alone of 
the blessed Virgin, that she is the Mother of 
God, exceeds every height and name which, after 
that of God, it is possible for us to think of/ t 

But we have now to consider what foundation 
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 na 
ture. We have to consider how the Most High 
did found His tabernacle. We have to consider 
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 pre 
pared 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 minds to see this noblest work of His 
grace and love, this most glorious of the works 
of His redeeming power ? 

* Bishop in Gaul, Sermon v, 19. Nat. Dfii Bib. Vat. Pat. vi, 
p. 692. 

+ Eadmer de Excell. B. M. 2. 



The Fathers on her Dignity 13 



CHAPTER II 

How the Fathers speak of the Dignity of the 
Mother of God 

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, in this chapter, to give more 
satisfactory examples of the mode in which they 
speak of her. 

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 Virgin, 
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 
Council 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 of chastity and the glory of her sex ; her 

* Marius Mercator, t. ii, pp. 19, 26, etc. 



14 The Immaculate Conception 

who is at once Mother 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, w/iere sin 
abounded^ there grace has superabounded* For 
now the holy Mary, Virgin, Mother of God, 
brings us together. That undefiled treasury of 
virginity ; that spiritual paradise of the second 
Adam ; that laboratory of the union of natures ; 
that mart of the commerce of salvation ; that 
bridal chamber in which the Word espoused 
flesh unto Himself; that animated bush of na 
ture, 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 Incarnation, in which, by 
some unspeakable way, the garment of that 
union was woven, whereof the weaver is the 
Holy Ghost ; and the spinner, the overshadow 
ing 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 arti 
ficer, the Word gliding through the hearing. 
Who ever saw, who ever heard how God dwelt 
in the womb, yet suffered no limitation r 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. 

* Rom. v, 20. 



The Fathers on her Dignity 15 

For where the serpent entered through the way 
of disobedience, and shed his poison, there the 
Word, through the way of obedienoe, 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 contracted 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 mystery of the birth 
would be lost. And if after bearing she re 
mained a virgin, how shall He not be also God, 
and a mystery which is unutterable ? 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." t By no means was the archi 
tect dishonoured, for He dwelt in the house 
which He Himself had built. Nor 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. O womb, in which 
the general decree of man s freedom was written. 
O womb, in which the arms against the devil 

* John xx, 28. t Heb. ii, 14. 



16 The Immaculate Conception 

were forged. O field, in which the divine hus 
bandman grew wheat without sowing. O temple, 
in which God was made a priest, not changing His 
nature, but, through mercy clothing Himself as 
the priest according to the order of Melchisedec.* 
" The Word was made flesh," t 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 ex 
claimed, " To the Jews a scandal and to the 
Gentiles foolishness.^: They know not the force 
of the mystery, because it passes their reason 
and comprehension. 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 flesh have been seated on the holy 
throne." || 

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

Basil, Archbishop of Seleucia, 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 
discourse 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 committed. 

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

* Ps. cix, 4. t John i, 14. I i Cor. i, 23. i Cor. ii, 8. 
|| S. Proclus, Orat. i, in Laud. S. Mariae, cd. Combefis. 



The Fathers on Mary s Dignity 17 

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 di 
vine grace can worthily accord the praises which 
are due to the Mother of God. But I have no 
thing 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 di 
vine Moses, have I loosened the shoes from the 
feet of my soul. . . . What fear ought to encom 
pass me then, when I undertake to offer praise to 
the Mother of God, lest through some indiscre 
tion I should utter words unsuited to her dignity ! 
It is not my aim to ascend a visible mountain 
whence I may cleave the overspreading atmo 
sphere, 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 may 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 Principalities 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 movements unrestrained on either 

* Isa. vi, 6, 7. 



1 8 The Immaculate Conception 

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 under 
stood 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 Mother 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 : 
4 O Lord omnipotent, King of all 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 without 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. 

44 From what flowers of praise shall we cull a 



The Fathers on Mary s Dignity 19 

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 r 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 r It is clearly fit 
ting we should greet her with these words of 
Solomon : l Many daughters have wrought vir 
tue, but thou hast risen above them all. t O 
sacred Virgin, well may the angels exult through 
thee, destined as they are to the service of men, 
from whom, in former times, they turned away. 
And let Gabriel now rejoice, for to him is en 
trusted 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, full of grace, the 
Lord is with thee. J 

"Hail, full of grace. Let thy face be joyful. 
For from thee shall the joy of all be born ; and 
He shall take away their ancient execration, dis 
solve 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 foun 
tain of the gospels shall stream to all believers, 
in floods of mercy from their fourfold source and 
spring. Hail, full of grace. Mediatrix between 
God and men, through whom the intervening 
barrier of enmity is cleared away and earthly 

* Heb. xi, 38. t Prov. xxxi, 29. + Luke i, 28. 



2O The Immaculate Conception 

things conjoined with those of heaven. The 
Lord is with thee. For thou art a temple truly 
worthy of God and redolent of the perfumes of 
chastity. In thee shall dwell the great High 
Priest, who, according to the order of Melchise- 
dec, is without father and mother* of God 
without mother, of thee without father. ... 

" Emmanuel 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 taber 
nacles. . . . And the most holy Mother of the Lord 
of all, the true Mother of God, pondering these 
things in her heart, t 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 r A man s name shall I give 
Thee? But Thy conception is divine. God s 
name shall I give Thee ? But Thou hast taken 
human flesh. Shall I nourish Thee with milk, or 
shall I glorify Thee r Shall I cherish Thee as 
Thy mother, or adore Thee as Thy handmaid r 
Shall I embrace Thee as my Son, or adore Thee 
as my God ? Shall I present Thee my breast, or 
offer Thee incense r What is this greatest, this 
most unutterable of mysteries r 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 

* Heb. vii, 3. t Luke ii, 19. 



The Fathers on Mary s Dignity 21 

of heaven. 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 handker 
chief which wiped the perspiration from Paul 
they drove the devils away with it,f how much 
power, think you, did He give His Mother r And 
what wonder if the saints, whilst they lived and 
walked on earth, had such efficacious influence, 
when even after their death the earth could not 
hinder 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 wonderful as these, what has He 
given to His Mother for her nursing r With what 
gifts has He adorned her r ... 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 con 
fessed r And if Paul is called a vessel of elec 
tion^ because he carried the august name of Christ 



Acts v, 15. f Acts xix, 12. t Matt, xvi, 16, 17, 19. 
Acts ix, 15. 



22 The Immaculate Conception 

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 nourishment 
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 silence." * 

The extract which follows is from a discourse 
of Theodotus, Bishop of Ancyra, who was one of 
the most active and able antagonists of Nestorius. 
It is taken from his sermon on the holy Mother 
of God and St Simeon. t 

" 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 greeting 
again. Hail, our longed-for joy: hail, glory of 
the Church : hail, sweetly breathing name : hail, 
divinely refulgent and most gracious counte 
nance : hail, most venerable stronghold : hail, sa 
lubrious and spiritual fleece : hail, yes hail, thou 
clothed with light and mother of the splendour 
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 handwriting of which Isaias sings, and 
of which men and angels are witnesses : hail, thou 
alabaster vessel of the unguent of sanctification : 

* Basil. Seleuc. Orat. in S. Dei Genitricem, 39. Combefis, 
Orat. 39, Bib. Max. Pat. viii, 481. It is uncertain whether this 
is by Basil ; vide Ceillier, x, 164 and 1 66, new edition. 

t This discourse seems to have been incorrectly attributed to 
St Amphilochius ; vide Ceillier, v, p. 370 and viii, 391, new 
edition. 

; Luke i, 28. 



The Fathers on Mary s Dignity 23 

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 they may, yet containest 
Him who contains all things. . . . 

"Why do you foolishly dissent from the 
truth r 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 r 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 delectable 
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. t But as the adversaries 
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 which 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 advanced unto yet greater holiness. But 
things that are known to all eyes render things 

* Ps. xlv, 5. t Ps. Ixxxvi, 5. i Cor. ii, 14. 



2 4 The Immaculate Conception 

obscure perceptible to sight. As iron, then, 
when it holds commerce with the fire, will 
scatter 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-undefiled 
Virgin should, by the coming unto her of the 
divine and immaterial fire, be inflamed to greater 
purity ? So that, removing whatever may be op 
posed to its nature,* she stands resplendent in 
the beauty of a nature that is most pure. And so 
far, indeed, that henceforth she is incapable of 
being closely approached, or endured, or even 
beheld, by those who are become degenerated 
through carnal vileness. And as he on whose 
head there is water poured, is overstreaming with 
the dropping fluid from head to foot ; so the holy 
Virgin and Mother is imbued in every part of 
her nature by the sanctity of the Holy Ghost 
descending upon her : and then, at last, we be 
lieve that she received God, the living Word, into 
her virginal and unguent-breathing chamber." f 

* 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 per 
fect holiness, and yet more absolute purity, which arose from 
the descent of the Holy Ghost at the Incarnation, 
t Oratio IV inter opera Sti Amphilochii. 



The Law of Preparation 25 



CHAPTER III 
The Law of Preparation 

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 sacrifices, 
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. Pre 
paration is one of the grand laws of the divine 
economy, and one which is everywhere apparent. 
And as we approach nearer to the end contem 
plated, so do we find the preparations more per 
fect, and higher grades of holiness in the instru 
ments 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 



26 The Immaculate Conception 

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, spe 
cially sanctified, and the descent to Him limited 
within their line. Some are prophets, organs 
of the eternal Word, who partake beforehand 
in the knowledge of the Word 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 preparation is 
minutely recorded, though in others it is but 
insinuated in the divine history. We have suffi 
cient examples given to show us that prepara 
tion 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 in relation 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, does 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 



The Law of Preparation 27 

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 Melchise- 
dec, who is the priest of the Most High God,t 
and the type of the royal priesthood of Christ. 
St Paul says that he was without father, mother, 
or length of days ; J 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 ex 
istence. And the very law intended for the de 
struction 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." K And after his 
miraculous conception, 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 anticipa 
tion,** 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, ft and he, therefore, 

* Gen. xviii, 10. t Gen. xiv, 18. "t Heb. vii, 3. 

Deut. xviii, 15. || Exod. ii, 3, 4. II Gen. xxx, 22. 

** i Kings, xvi, 13. ft Gen. xvii, 19; xxii, 2. 



28 The Immaculate Conception 

is miraculously conceived. Samson is raised up 
"to begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines."* 
He is the figure of Christ s victorious power. An 
angel announces his conception,! and before his 
existence has begun special laws are prescribed 
for his observance. 

Samuel opened 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.J God also 
prepared Daniel with grace and wisdom from his 
childhood. Isaias is the evangelist before the 
Gospel, the prophet by eminence of the Incarna 
tion. We have no account of his birth, but be 
fore he began to prophesy he had a special pre 
paration. The seraph cleansed his lips with a 
burning coal from the altar. Jeremias is the pro 
phet of the Passion, and the figure of our Lord s 
sorrows. And to him the Almighty says : " Be 
fore I made thee in the bowels of thy mother, I 
knew thee ; and before thou earnest forth out of 
the womb, I sanctified thee and made thee a pro 
phet unto the nations. "|| 

But the long-expected hour of the Incarnation 
is at hand, and one is raised up whose especial 
office it is more directly to prepare the way be 
fore the Son of God. If And for this singular office, 
exercised so near to the Son of God, we find, as 
we might have expected from what has gone be 
fore, that he receives a most singular preparation 
for his sacred office. Holy and aged parents are 
selected by God, an archangel comes and an 
nounces to them his conception, and prescribes a 

* Judges xiii, 5. f Judges xiii, 3, 5. t i Kings i. n ; iii, i. 
Isa. vi, 6. I! Jer. i, 5. If Luke i, 76. 



The Law of Preparation 29 

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 precursor. At the awful moment of 
the Annunciation Gabriel says to Mary : " And 
behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath con 
ceived 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."t Thus John s 
miraculous conception is made the proof to Mary 
of God s power, and of His will, and of the ripe 
ness of the time for its fulfilment. And no sooner 
did she hear of that miraculous conception than 
she bowed down her will to God and said : " Be 
hold the handmaid 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. For Jesus gives His graces 
from the silent womb, and speaks through the 
voice of Mary. 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 mys- 
steries, and prepared the way for its accomplish 
ment. And when we consider how those great 
personages who were pre-elected to fulfil them 
were prepared and pre-sanctified, can we suppose 

* Luke i, 15. t Luke i, 36, 37. J Luke 5, 38. Luke i, 43. 



30 The Immaculate Conception 

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 r 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 links in the lineage 
of Jesus, or as anticipating Him in their persons, 
or as prophetically 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 an 
ticipated ; 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 In 
carnation through the submission of her will. 
" If Jeremias," as a writer of the time of St An- 
selm says, " who prophesied in groanings, was 
sanctified in the womb; and if St John, the pre 
cursor 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 deprived of the illumination of the Holy 
Spirit r " 

Consider for a moment that long-descended 
ancestry of Christ. Patriarchal and kingly as it 
is, from what cause does it derive its glory r Not 
like other great lines from its first founder, but 
from its last descendant. Abraham, 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 

* DC Conccptione B.M.V. 



The Law of Preparation 31 

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 Abraham, 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 Solo 
mon was chosen for its builder. The prepara 
tions 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 
David tells us the cause when he says that " a 
dwelling is prepared, not for man, but for God." t 

And so was Mary prepared and built up 
a living temple for the indwelling of God. 
Silently was she prepared, but with a magnifi 
cence of grace of which the magnificence of the 
material temple was but the figure. For when 
we consider that Jesus, in His infinite holiness, 
was not only separated from sin, but also sepa 
rated from sinners, + as St Paul tells us, we can 
not suppose that He took His flesh from a sinner, 
dwelt in a sinner, and came forth from a sinner, 
that He might be nursed and ruled and com 
manded 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 singu 
lar manner prepare and sanctity His living 
temple, when He made it, and that He made 

* 3 Kings vi, 7. t i Par. xxix, I. J Heb. vii, 26. 



32 The Immaculate Conception 

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, O Manichean r She is My 
Mother. I framed her with My hands. I made 
the Mother of whom I should be born. I pre 
pared the path for My coming." * 

St John Damascene, in one of his discourses 
on the Blessed Virgin, has drawn a comparison 
between the creation of earth with its heavenly 
canopy as a dwelling-place 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 " be 
opened and bud forth a Saviour." t 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 through infinite 
goodness was brought into existence, the heavens 
were expanded and the earth was spread be 
neath, 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 has begun its course, 
lest what God had made should go to ruin and 

* L. contra Haeres. v, inter opera spuria S. Aug. 
t Isa. xlv, 8. Gen. xxviii, 17. 



The Law of Preparation 33 

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. O marvellous work ! She is that heaven, 
for from the most secret treasures of her virginity 
shone forth the Sun of Justice. She is that earth 
from whose undefiled soil grew the wheat of life. 
She is that sea which from its deep womb pro 
duced the spiritual pearl. How magnificent is 
this world ! What a stupendous creation ! Of 
her Zacharias sings : " Rejoice, and be glad, 
O daughter of Sion ; for behold I come, and 
will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord."* 
And of her it is that Joel exclaims: "O earth, 
be glad and rejoice, for the Lord hath done great 
things. "f 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." J She is that earth in which sprang 
up no thorn of sin, but through whose germina 
tion sin was rooted out. She is that earth, not 
cursed, like the former earth, tangled 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 
oracle." 

* Zach. ii, 10. t Joel ii, 21. Ps. ciii, 5. 

Contracted from S. J. Damasc. 2 Horn, de Nativ. B.M.V. 



34 The Immaculate Conception 



CHAPTER IV 
The Principle of Exception from Law 

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. It 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 by the sanction of the law ; and 
the accomplishment of some more exalted end or 
purpose than the law contemplates. Thus mira 
cles are exceptions to the fixed and constant laws 
of nature, and their object is the mystery of re 
demption and the laws of grace and holiness. 

Take the law of the divine commandments. 
The expression of that sacred law is universal ; 
44 Thou shalt 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 within 
their scope the whole of the members of the body 

* Exod. xx, 13. 



The Principle of Exception 35 

politic ; 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 r 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 heated sevenfold, the three 
children walked unharmed and felt refreshed in 
its flames.* And the bush which burned in the 
sight of Moses and was not consumed,f is a 
favourite figure with the Fathers for the Blessed 
Virgin. It is a law equally universal that rivers 
flow on and seek their level. But when that 
symbol of Jesus and Mary, the Ark of the Cove 
nant, 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.J No law is more fixed and enduring than 
that by which the sun and planets move in 
their orbits. Yet, that the victory of Israel 
might be completed, the sun was arrested in his 
course. 

We have a most remarkable exception from 
a universal law in the persons of Enoch and Elias. 
In them the law of death, that fruit of original sin, 
is arrested, || 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 an exception from univer 
sal law in Sarah; how, after being exhausted 

* Dan. iii. f Exod. iii, 2. Jos. iii, 13. 
Jos. x, 12, 13. ;; Gen. v, 24; 4 Kings ii, 2. 



36 The Immaculate Conception 

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 binding than this, that a 
father shall cherish the life of his son? But 
Abraham draws a sword with the 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 contagion. 
Our Lord declared that " Unless a man be born 
again of water and of the Holy Ghost, he cannot 
enter into the kingdom 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, receives the mystery of redemp 
tion 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 persons. 
King Assuerus loved her more than all women, 
and made her his queen. || Aman, the enemy of 
God s people, plots against that people, and 
obtains a decree from the king for the destruct 
ion of the entire race.f Esther, who is reminded 
by Mordecai 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, 

* Gen. xxi, 2. t Gen. xxii, i; James ii, 21. J John iii, 5. 
Esther ii, 7, 15. Esther ii, 17. t Esther iii, 8. 



The Principle of Exception 37 

and she rests her weary head upon her hand 
maid/ 5 * 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 r . . . . Fear not. Thou shalt not die. 
This law is not made for thee, but for all others. "f 
And whilst Esther is proclaimed to be exempted 
from the law, she becomes the instrument 
through which her race is saved. J As the great 
leading principles of human law are so often but 
the reflection 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 
princess 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 ex 
ception to 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 uni 
verse 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 
Him who is at once God and man. She is a 
mother whilst she remains a virgin. She is 
exempted from the curse of Eve, that fruit of 
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 in- 
stances, as in a thousand others, she is an excep- 

* Esther xv, 8, 10. t Esther xv, 11, 12, 13. + Esther xvi. 
Ulpian. Princeps de Legibus. 



38 The Immaculate Conception 

tion to every law. The Scripture says that " in 
many things we all offend;* and that a just 
man shall fall seven times." f But it is the gene 
ral 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 judgement ; 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 body to see corruption, but assumed 
it 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 to its laws; does not our very reason 
lead us to look into its commencement for one 
exception more which may yield to us an expla 
nation of its entire course r 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 pre 
sent both the simplest and the fullest explanation 
of her other exceptions r 

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 fire, could preserve Alary untouched 
from the burning flame of concupiscence. He who 
took up Elias in the fiery chariot, so that he 

* Ja Hi, 2. f Prov. xxiv, 16. + Dan. iii, 24. Exod. iii, 2. 



The Principle of Exception 39 

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, t 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 the Jordan that the 
ark of the Old Testament might pass untouched 
and honoured through its bed,J could hold back 
the wave of Adam, lest it should overflow the ark 
of the New Testament beneath its defiling floods. 
For that we are born in the crime of Adam and 
with original sin is not a result of absolute neces 
sity, but of the divine will. And if He who or 
dained this penalty had already solved it in part 
when, ere His birth, He sanctified the holy pre 
cursor 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 r Because the 
Most blessed Virgin was included in the compact 
with Adam and his race ? But God, in His eter 
nal foresight and knowledge, might not have in 
cluded 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 r And cer 
tainly humility was that virtue in Mary which 

* 4 Kings ii, n. t Judges vi, 37, 38. Jos. iii, 13. 
Luke i, 1. 



40 The Immaculate Conception 

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 in 
creases with the dignity of holiness and the great 
ness of God s gifts, and this is manifest in the ex 
ample of our blessed Lord Himself, who, as man, 
was the most humble 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 r 
But the divine Justice 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 magnifi 
cent act of clemency. But the Son fulfilled each 
law of justice, both the law of condemnation 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, nor any accusation, and was born of her in 
nocence. 

And if indeed our human reason be a reflec 
tion 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 guilty and bring her to the death, when he had 
power abundantly to save her from that igno 
miny, 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 

* Luke i, 49. 



The Principle of Exception 41 

is both judge and accuser, left His Mother in 
the common wreck and condemnation, when it 
needed only His will to save her from it, and 
yet to satisfy all justice ? 

What St Augustine says on another mystery 
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 ex 
claims : " 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 
also 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 occasion 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 abomina 
tion before God. 

* S. Aug. L. 3de Lib. Arbitrio, cv, 13. 

t S. Aug. L. i de Nat. et Grat. xxxvi, 42. 



42 The Immaculate Conception 



CHAPTER V 

The Law of Gradation in Perfection ; and the 
Law of the Accumulation of Excellence 

GOD has ordered His creation on a most wonder 
ful scale of ascension. One order of creation rises 
above another ; kingdom above kingdom ; tribe 
above tribe ; species above species ; and indivi 
dual above individual within the same species. 
Between the grain of sand on which man treads 
without a thought, and the seraph who lives on 
the ecstatic 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 sub 
sistence from the plant ; man, to the inferior life 
of the animal, which nourishes and serves him, 
joins an intellectual existence; whilst the angel 
is more like to God, by the purely spiritual 
nature of his being. But each of these king 
doms of the creation possesses in a more ex 
cellent and eminent way the qualities and attri 
butes of the order which is inferior to it. Thus 



Law of Gradation in Perfection 43 

man has existence in common with the mineral, 
organization and growth with the plant, power 
of sensation 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. The angel 
has man s activity without his need of repose, 
man s intelligence purged of obscuration, and 
man s love without his fears. Each of the 
three hierarchies of angels surpasses the one 
below it by more eminent gifts of excellence. 
Each hierarchy contains its three orders, and each 
order of those blessed spirits comprises count 
less individuals, who differ one from another 
as star from star in excellence and glory. The 
seraph illuminates the cherub, the cherub illu 
minates 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 good 
ness. And the excellence of each of those created 
natures lies in the degree in which it is a reflec 
tion of its Creator. But whilst the excellence of 
the insensible creature 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 



44 The Immaculate Conception 

are alike. No two minds, no two hearts, and no 
faces are alike. The law of individuality rests 
on the law of unceasing variety. Take the two 
individuals who have the closest resemblance to 
each other, and the more you study them, the 
more strikingly will their differences come out. 
But those distinctions lie in some further de 
parture 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 fancied 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 philoso 
pher and a St Paul, expending himself for his 
brethren. Between such degradation of our na 
ture on the one side, and such elevation to 
wards the sanctity and power of God on the 
other, who can measure or comprehend the 
distance ? And even between sanctity and 
sanctity how vast are the spaces in given ex 
amples ! 

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 indivi 
dual examples. " There are diversities of graces, 
but the same spirit. And there are diversities of 
ministries, but the same Lord. And there are 
diversities of operations, but the same God, 



Law of Gradation in Perfection 45 

who worketh all in all." * And, speaking in a 
more ample manner of that gradation and di 
versity which reigns throughout the natural 
order, and comparing it with the gradation in 
the supernatural order, the Apostle 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 terrestrial: but one is the 
glory of the celestial, and another of the terres 
trial. One is the glory of the sun, another the 
glory of the moon, and another the glory of the 
stars. For star differs from star in glory/ f And 
our Lord Himself says of the gradation of that 
glory: "In My Father s house there are many 
mansions. ... I go to prepare for you a place.":}: 

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 em 
brace in itself the various excellencies exempli 
fied 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 contem 
plative philosophers 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 

* i Cor. xii, 4, 5, 6. t i Cor. xv, 39-41. John xiv, 2. 



46 The Immaculate Conception 

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 de 
grees of grace and holiness accumulated in a 
single 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 redound 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 degrees of faith and 
love, think you, would it require to render as 
much glory to God and as great a help and ex- 



Accumulation of Excellence 47 

ample to men, as the faith and love of the single 
soul of St John r And how many ordinary 
Christians, combining all their lights and vir 
tues, could do the works of St Paul works so 
mighty that they are fertile in fruits even to 
this day r 

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 immeasurably more glory to God than 
all saints and angels, and human nature itself 
was exalted to its utmost perfection through its 
head in His sacred person. 

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 example 
to encourage us to follow in the path they trod. 

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 r No, 



48 The Immaculate Conception 

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, Father of men as the new 
Adam, and divinest of Victims and Martyrs. 
And as He sums up in Himself each order of per 
fection, so through the hypostatic union, He is 
absolutely perfect, and in Him the whole fulness 
of the Godhead dwells bodily. 

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 r 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 women she must have these two qualities; 
she must have a nearer resemblance to God 
and a greater union with God than all others. 
And she must sum up within her person, emi 
nently and surpassingly, the several excellences 
to be found in every order of female excellence. 
But this supreme excellence of woman as the 
type and head of womanhood is only to be found 



Accumulation of Excellence 49 

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 
begotten of His substance from eternity. She is 
incomparably more united to God than any other 
mere creature, 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, Virgin, 
Spouse of God, Spouse of man, Ikother of the 
Man-God, Prophetess 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 un 
surpassed as even man can contemplate, and 
which therefore God contemplates most perfectly, 
was never realized, and God has not filled up 
the ideal plan of 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 sinners,"* 
took flesh from a sinner, and one who had been 
under the devil s yoke. As the mind springs 
back in horror from this thought, let us then con 
sider Mary as the head of woman and the 
counterpart of Eve. And what place is she as 
signed in the grand scale of creation r There 
are diversities of graces, and ministries, and 
operations, which the same Spirit works in all 
the several members of that body,t of which 
Christ is the head. And to her is given the 
grace of the divine maternity, the operation of 
the divine maternity, and the ministry of the 
divine maternity. In that great body, therefore, 

* Heb. vii, 26. t i Cor. xii, .j, 5. 



48 The Immaculate Conception 

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, Father of men as the new 
Adam, and divinest of Victims and Martyrs. 
And as He sums up in Himself each order of per 
fection, so through the hypostatic union, He is 
absolutely perfect, and in Him the whole fulness 
of the Godhead dwells bodily. 

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 r 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 women she must have these two qualities; 
she must have a nearer resemblance to God 
and a greater union with God than all others. 
And she must sum up within her person, emi 
nently and surpassingly, the several excellences 
to be found in every order of female excellence. 
But this supreme excellence of woman as the 
type and head of womanhood is only to be found 



Accumulation of Excellence 49 

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 
begotten of His substance from eternity. She is 
incomparably more united to God than any other 
mere creature, 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, Virgin, 
Spouse of God, Spouse of man, Mother of the 
Man-God, Prophetess 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 un 
surpassed as even man can contemplate, and 
which therefore God contemplates most perfectly, 
was never realized, and God has not filled up 
the ideal plan of 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 sinners/ * 
took flesh from a sinner, and one who had been 
under the devil s yoke. As the mind springs 
back in horror from this thought, let us then con 
sider Mary as the head of woman and the 
counterpart of Eve. And what place is she as 
signed in the grand scale of creation r There 
are diversities of graces, and ministries, and 
operations, which the same Spirit works in all 
the several members of that body,f of which 
Christ is the head. And to her is given the 
grace of the divine maternity, the operation of 
the divine maternity, and the ministry of the 
divine maternity. In that great body, therefore, 

* Heb. vii, 26. t i Cor. xii, 4, 5. 



50 The Immaculate Conception 

of the redeemed, next to her divine Son, who is 
its head, she is the first in all graces, rights and 
privileges. 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 ascending 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 over 
flow 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" r* Hence the 
Fathers of the Church, from the earliest to the 
latest times, have rivalled each other in placing 
the Mother of God above all the choirs of angels, 
and next to her Son in power and glory. And 
hence the Church can understand only of her 
amongst all women the words of the Holy Ghost 
unto the spouse, "One is my dove, my perfect 
one is but one." t 

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- 

* Ps. ii, 7. f Cant, vi, 8. + L. dc Concep. Virg. cap. 18. 
Lib. iii Sent, d. xxii, q. iii, a. 3, q la 3. 



Accumulation of Excellence 53 

maternity, which derives its dignity from the 
type of all mothers. This wonderful restoration, 
as it arose with the uprising of the Church and 
took its origin from the perfect Virgin and Mo 
ther, was more striking then than now, since 
from long custom 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 concerning 
her has become hesitating, there the reverence for 
woman has begun to retrograde. Two remarkable 
consequences have shown themselves: the vir 
gins 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 motherhood 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 rest 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 Magdalene, as she 
recovers her lost innocence, draws the argu 
ment more strongly 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 
immaculate." 



54 The Immaculate Conception 



CHAPTER VI 

In what Sense are we to understand the 
Mystery of the Immaculate Conception? 

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 this 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 
suggests, that we are now speaking. The body 
is transmitted through the parents, the soul is 
infused by God. The transmission of the body, 
whereby 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 animation, is called the passive conception. 
The distinction between these two conceptions 
was not scientifically drawn at the period ante 
rior 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 certain writ 
ings of some few of the western Fathers and 
Divines at an earlier period than the thirteenth 
century. It is true that Pope Innocent III, in 
his book on the Contempt of the World, had 
spoken of the two-fold conception the one 



Its Mystery 55 

caused by the parents, the other contracted by 
their offspring.* 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 infu 
sion 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 activity 
by animation ; and the soul, created and infused 
without justifying 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 re 
mains 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."t But 
previous to animation that flesh is not a human 
subject and possesses no moral qualitiesj_in 

* De Contemptu Mundi, i, 4; Migne, Fat. L. 217, col. 703. 
t Gen. xxi, 2, 



56 The Immaculate Conception 

fact it is not Mary. Mary is truly conceived 
when her soul is created and infused into that 
body. 

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 question re 
gards the moment of rational animation ; of the 
reception or, more truly, of the conception of 
the soul and the instant of its union with the 
body. To use the words of Perrone,* who follows 
Alexander VII., Benedict XIV., f 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 passive conception was imma 
culate and exempt from all sin. 

This is clearly explained and denned to be 
the question in the celebrated Constitution of 
Alexander VII of December 8, 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 says, " De 
siring, after the example of the Roman pontiffs 

* Th. de Imm. Cone. B.V.M. 3, 4, 5. 

t De Festis B.V.M. cap. 185 etc. 

^ Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum, i and 4. 



Its Mystery 57 

our predecessors, to favour this piety and de 
votion, 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 instituted ; and moreover 
to protect that piety and devotion which honours 
and celebrates the most blessed Virgin as pre 
served by the preventing 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 
entreaties of the aforesaid bishops with their 
chapters, and of King Philip and his kingdoms, 
we renew the constitutions and decrees of the 
Roman pontiffs our predecessors, and especially 
of Sixtus IV, Paul V and Gregory XV, pub 
lished 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 command them to be observed." 

It is not the intention of Alexander VII, in 
this decree, to define the doctrine, but to ex 
plain the true sense of the Immaculate Concep 
tion 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 



58 The Immaculate Conception 

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 presence of 
Jesus at the Visitation. And our divine Lord 
was conceived only 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 
Exemption from Original sin, " are all phrases 
which bear the same signification, and are used 
equally to express one and the same mystery.] 



The Eternal Counsel of God 59 



CHAPTER VII 
The Eternal Counsel of God 

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 pre 
sent 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 succes 
sions of time. These are laws for the creature 
and not for their Creator. His wisdom contem 
plates the end of His work, and ordains the 
means unto their ends, and subordinates 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 Incarna- 

* Isa. lv, 8, 9. 



6o The Immaculate Conception 

tion. 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: holocausts 
for sin did not please Thee. Then said I : Be 
hold I come : in the head of the book it is written 
of Me: that I should do Thy will O God."f 
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 .... who 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 domina 
tions, 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 God."|| 

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,"f 
that is of a particular and predestinated 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 Incarnation. Of all the 
elect, St Paul has said, He chose us in Christ 
before the constitution of the world, that we 

* Apoc xxii, 13. f Heb. x. 5, 6, 7. j , Pet . i, ^20" 
Coloss. i. 14-18. H Apoc. iii.i 4 . f Gal iv j. 

** Cf. Isa. ix, 6. 



The Eternal Counsel of God 61 

should be holy and blameless 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 hath 
graced us 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, proclaimed at the fall as destined to 
crush the head of Satan, f 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 encompass 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 com 
ing. Such are Judith, Debora and Esther. 
Such also, in a more special sense, is the one 
true and immaculate spouse of the true Wisdom, 
whom the Holy Ghost celebrates in the Canticle 
of Solomon. Such also, though more imper 
fectly, were those women who miraculously 
brought forth sons that were figures of Christ. 

To the prophet Jeremias God said, "Before 
I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I 
knew thee; and before thou earnest forth from 
the womb I sanctified thee, and made thee a 
prophet unto the nations." II To Mary, therefore, 
tar 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 ot 

* Eph. i, 4, 5, 6. t Gen. iii, 15. t Isa. vii, 14. 
Jer. xxxi, 22. || Jer. i, 5. 



62 The Immaculate Conception 

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 Sapiential 
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 contemplated the 
bringing about of the human conception of 
His Son. 

Thus, from the eighth chapter of Proverbs, 
which, as Petavius shows, the majority of the 
Fathers interpret of the Incarnation,* we say of 
Mary by accommodation, as of Jesus literally : 
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of 
His ways, before He made anything from the 
beginning. . . . The depths were not as yet, and 
I was already conceived/ f 

Aretas, Archbishop of Csesarea, interprets the 
following passage from Isaias Ixvi, 7, of the 
Mother of the Lord: "Before she was in labour, 
she brought forth; before her time came to be 
delivered, she brought forth a man^hild." J 

* Petavius de Trinitate ii, r. f Prov. viii, 22, 24. 
Arelas, Com. in Apoc. xxxiii. 



The Eternal Counsel of God 63 

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 pre 
destined to them, the graces of Mary are more 
wonderfully predestined that she may bring 
the Author of grace into the world. And God 
contemplates, from the depths of His eternity, 
that vSon who is born into the world for the re 
demption of His creatures, and that Mother of 
whose virgin purity He is conceived of the Holy 
Ghost. And thus before the ages, in the con 
templation of God, was Mary the predestined 
Mother of Jesus 



64 The Immaculate Conception 



CHAPTER VIII 
The Fall of the Angels 

THE angels had not, at their creation, the beati 
fying 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 Augustine, " They had 
the evening light, but not the morning 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 revela 
tion was revealed in a more excellent way to the 
angels." t 

But was the eternal counsel on the mystery of 
the Incarnation in any manner communicated to 
them r That they adored the First-begotten at 
His entering the world we know ; + but had they 
been expecting this event from the first f Tak 
ing the whole context of the passage in the first 
Epistle of St Peter, it seems evident that it was 
on the mystery of Christ that "the angels longed 
to look"; which implies a knowledge begun but 
not perfected, a knowledge through faith but 
not through insight of that sacred mystery. 

Most certainly, the " primacy " of the God 
incarnate and His glorious reign over angels as 
over men are 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 

* De Genesi ad litteram iv, 32. t Sum. I, q. 57, a. 5 ad 3 am . 
t Heb. i, 6. 8 i Pet. i, 12. 



The Fall of the Angels 65 

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 redeemed, but 
the greatest of glories, that was possible 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/ f as well 
as of men, and that it has well pleased the Father 
" through Him to reconcile all things unto Him 
self, making peace through the blood of His 
cross, both as to the things that are on earth, 
and the things that are in heaven/ f And He 
made " the angels and powers and virtues sub 
ject to Him." The angels, therefore, were most 
deeply interested in 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 to 
wards its fulfilment under the Old Testament, 
and proclaimed it from heaven before it was 
preached in the Church. 

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 

* Heb. i, 2. t Eph. i, 21. Coloss. i, 20. 
i St Peter, iii, 22. 

5 



66 The Immaculate Conception 

condemnation."* And St Jerome, 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 igno 
rant that it did profit them/ f 

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 
angels 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."J 

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 
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 completed 
his perdition through envy of the prerogatives of 
man. || He envied his being made in the image 

* Ep. ad Smyrn. vi. f St Jerome, com. in Eph. iv, 10. 

J Serm. 22, in Cantica. Ps. xxxix, 8. 

II For this opinion see Irenaeus iii, 23, No. 8 ; Tertull. de 
Patientia, 5 ; St Cyprian, De Zelo et Livore ; St Greg. Nys. 
Catech. 6; St Augustine citing St Cyprian, De Bap. iv, 8; 



The Fall of the Angels 67 

of God ; he envied his dominion over the crea 
tion ; 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 a 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 wonder 
ful 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 ;t that he accounted himself 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 mystery of humility, and 
to recognize the Son of God as " made of a wo 
man, made under the law," J and "made a little 
lower than the angels " for the sufferings of death. 

Methodius cited by Epiphanius, Hseres. Ixiv, 21 ; and Anasta- 
sius the Sinaite. Lactantius says Satan envied the Son of God, 
Inst. Div. ii. 8. * Ps. viii, 6. 

t Scotus, Sent, ii, Disp. v, 9. Scotus gives and approves 
of this as a possible explanation of Satan s sin. His preferred 
view is given Dist. vi, q. 2, n. 8, to the effect that it was 
inordinate love of self that caused his fall. Billuart, de Angelis 
Disp. v, a. 3, dico 3, cites John of St Thomas, and calls it the 
probable opinion of a most eminent divine. Suarez, L. 7 de Ange 
lis, xiii, 13. He cites Vigner, Jacob of Valentia, Catharinus 
and Lactantius, as absolutely of this opinion, and others as 
holding it probable. Petavius, who is against it, cites Scn- 
bonius as for it. t Gal. iv, 4. Heb. ii, 7. Ps. viii, 6. 



68 The Immaculate Conception 

And the conclusion drawn from these premisses 
is that the mystery revealed to the angels for the 
trial of their faith was the Incarnation of the Son 
of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary. And 
that it is historically set forth as a type of the 
Church in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse. 

When our Lord says of the devil that " he 
was a man-slayer 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 man- 
slayer 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.f The whole of the 
two first chapters of St Paul to the Hebrews 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 r 
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 r "} And he shows that 
God would not subject the world to come unto 
the angels, but in Jesus He raised up man from 
a condition lower than the angels, and put all 
things under his feet, and through His death 
" destroyed the empire of death, that is to say, 
the devil " ; for " nowhere doth He take hold of 
the angels ; but of the seed of Abraham He 
taketh hold." The whole of these two chapters 
comes out with a vast increase of depth and in 
telligence, if we read them under the supposition 

* John viii, 44. f Com. in Evang-. Joan. c. v. 

J Heb. i, 5,6, 13. Heb. ii, 14, 16. 



The Fall of the Angels 69 

that angels actually aspired to that seat which 
Jesus holds. 

The Sacred Scriptures give us three most ter 
rible 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 instru 
ment. Thus in the fourteenth chapter of Isaias 
the fall of Satan is made the type of the fall of the 
king of Babylon : " How art thou fallen from 
heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise 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, I will 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-eighth 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 per 
fect in beauty. Thou wast in the pleasure of the 
paradise of God : every precious stone was thy 
covering. . . . Thou wast a cherub stretching 
out 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. Thou wast 
perfect in thy ways from the day of thy creation, 
until iniquity was found in thee. . . . And I cast 



70 The Immaculate Conception 

thee out from the mountain of God, and des 
troyed thee, O covering cherub, out of the midst 
of the stones of fire. And thy heart was lifted 
up with thy beauty ; and thou hast lost thy wis 
dom in thy beauty ; I have cast thee to the 
ground." f 

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 remark 
able 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 apostasies are brought together. In this 
sublime and terrible 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 battle on earth. 
Amidst that wondrous commotion in heaven, 
where Michael and his angels are arrayed 
against Satan and his angels, the blessed Mother 
of God stands radiant in divine light with the 
Son of God incarnate 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, while Satan is the figure of 
Antichrist, 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 mem 
bers. And as Antichrist wages war against the 
Church impelled by Satan, so Satan impels Anti 
christ to the combat against the Church as the 
continuance of his own wj,r_against Jesus and 

* Isa. xiv, 12-15. f Ezec. xxviii, 12-17. 



The Fall of the Angels 71 

against " the woman." We shall therefore find 
in this, as in all applications of types and figures, 
a constant mingling of two senses, the one literal 
the other figurative, the one historical the other 
prophetical, the one looking to the past, the 
other towards the future. The combat of the 
Church with Antichrist is the object of the pro 
phecy, but the combat of the angels with Satan 
and his host is the historical type under which 
it is described, whilst Mary bringing forth the 
Son of God is the historical type of the Church. 
But the historical time is taken back to the mo 
ment of the fall of the angels, and the place is 
the heavens, whilst the prophetic time looks to 
wards the earth, the Church militant and the 
days of Antichrist. Hence the two traditions 
and the two interpretations, the one representing 
the " woman " as the Blessed Virgin, the other 
as the Church. For parts of the vision literally 
describe the Blessed Virgin and her Child, whilst 
other parts literally describe the Church and her 
children; parts again literally describe Satan, 
his combat and his fall, whilst parts literally de 
scribe Antichrist, his combat and his fall. 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 hail/ 

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. 

* See Cornelius a Lapide, who expands the whole vision in 
the sense here given, with ample citation of authorities. 



72 The Immaculate Conception 

She is thus designated by the Fathers,* as in her 
litany she is called the ark of the covenant. St 
John Damascene calls her the animated ark of 
the living God.f The lightnings, earthquakes 
and voices are the tokens of God s power and ir 
resistible Will. 

"And a great sign appeared in heaven."^ 
What sign is this ? Isaias says, " The Lord 
Himself shall give you a sign. Behold a Virgin 
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 be 
neath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve 
stars. And she, being with child, cried travail 
ing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered." II 

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. H 

" And there appeared another sign in heaven : 
and behold a great red dragon, having seven 
heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven 
diadems. And his tail drew the third part of the 
stars of heaven and cast them 011 the earth; and 
the dragon stood before the woman, who was 

* Vid. Passaglia, de Immac. Concep. sec. 3, c. 2, art. 2, who 
cites ten Fathers. 

t Horn, ii in Nat. B.V.M. 7. J Apoc. xii, I. 

Isa. yii, 14. || Apoc. xii, i, 2. 

"This woman," says Kendrick, "is most correctly con 
ceived to be the blessed Virgin, since she is spoken of as the 
mother of the child whom the dragon sought to destroy." And 
he quotes Moses Stuart, a Protestant, as not altogether object 
ing to it, though startled at the magnificence of the description. 
(Com. on Apoc. ad h. 1.) 



The Fall of the Angels 73 

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 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. This allu 
sion to the divinity of the child born of the 
" woman " is aimed at the prevailing heresy of 
the Cerinthians and Ebionites. 

" 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." t 

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 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 seduceth 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 

* Apoc. xii, 3, 4, 5. t Apoc. xii, 6. J Apoc. xii, 7, 8, 9. 
Com, in Apoc. xii, 7. || Com. in Joel ii. 



74 The Immaculate Conception 

in the seventy-third 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 designation. And Satan, 
whose name means "the adversary," became the 
designation of his enemy. 

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

" And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying: 
Now is come salvation, and strength, and the 
kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ : 
because the accuser of our brethren is cast forth, 
who 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 death." f 

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 
victory 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 doth Satan stand confronted 
in his enmity against the Mother of our Lord. 

" And the dragon was angry with the woman, 

* Ps. Ixxiii, 12, 14. f Apoc. xii, lo, II. 



The Fall of the Angels 75 

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 " heirs indeed of God and joint-heirs with 
Christ. "f And here there comes out into clear 
expression that enmity between the Mother of 
God and Satan, which began in heaven, where 
her office was first revealed, and has ever since 
been continued 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 predestined one, 
through whom his conqueror shall always foil 
his schemes, confounding the strong one by the 
weakness of woman. For his destruction is the 
work of wisdom, not of power, and wisdom works 
its ends through the weakest of instruments. 
Hence, no sooner had Satan seduced Eve than 
God declared to Him, " I will put enmity be 
tween thee and the woman .... and she shall 
crush thy head"* as in fact she had always 
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 perfidious," ob 
serves St Ephrem. || 

St Epiphanius refers to this vision when he 
exclaims : " O most holy Virgin, who didst cast 
the armies of angels into astonishment; for it 

* Apoc. xii, 17. t Rom. viii, 17. J Gen. Hi, 15. 
Horn, ii de S. M. Deipara, Bib. Max. Pat. xii, p. 187. 
11 Orat. ad S. Dei Matrem, torn, iii, Gr. et Lat. p. 547. 



76 The Immaculate Conception 

is an astounding miracle in the heavens, the 
woman clothed with the sun; it is an astound 
ing miracle in the heavens, the woman bearing 
the light in her arms ; it is an astounding 
miracle in the heavens, that other cherubic 
throne ; it is an astounding miracle in the 
heavens, the Son of the woman, who is both 
her father and the father of ages ; it is an 
astounding miracle in the heavens, the bridal 
chamber of the Virgin, having within the Son 
OL God God the spouse Christ ; it is an 
astounding miracle in the heavens, the Lord 
of Angels become the child of a Virgin."* 

In the fourth of the four sermons on the Creed, 
amongst the works of St Augustine, which, if it 
be not of that Father, is of his time and appeals 
to the popular belief, the sense of the vision 
which we have been contemplating 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 igno 
rant that that dragon was the devil, and that 
that woman signified the Virgin Mary, who, in 
her integrity, brought forth our head in His 
integrity, 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."! 

But St Augustine is undoubtedly the author 
of a like interpretation, in his commentary on the 
1 42nd Psalm, where he says : " Let your charity 
attend, not to what you are ignorant of but 

* S. Epiph. de Laudibus B.V.M. 
t Serm. iv de Symbolo ad Cat. i. 



The Fall of the Angels 77 

to what you know; that our Lord and Saviour 
Jesus Christ is the head of His body, is that one 
mediator of God and men, the man Jesus, born 
of the Virgin, as if in solitude, as we have heard 
in the Apocalypse. By this solitude I think is 
meant that He alone was so born. For that 
woman brought Him forth to rule the people 
with a rod of iron. But this woman is that 
ancient city of God." * Thus St Augustine con 
sidered the "Woman" to be both the Blessed 
Virgin and the Church. 

As early as the third century, St Methodius 
spoke of a then existing opinion that the "wo 
man " was the Blessed Virgin. He himself de 
cides that she is the Church. He did not see 
that both interpretations might be true, though 
he proves by his testimony that both existed.! 

Andrew, Archbishop of Csesarea, in his com 
mentary on the Apocalypse, has this passage 
on the words, " Mulier amicta sole": "Some 
interpret this woman to be the all-holy Virgin 
Mother of God, and think that she encoun 
tered all that here follows in order, before her 
divine parturition could be perfectly known. "J 

St Ambrose, in his book on the Institution 
of Virginity, makes this profound and beautiful 
observation: "As Mary was delivered to the 
care of John, the virginal Evangelist, it is not 
to be wondered at that he should utter divine 
mysteries more than the rest, for he had near 
him the state chamber of the heavenly mys 
teries/ 5 And he exclaims in a later chapter: 
u How beautiful are those things also which are 
prophesied of Mary in the figure of the Church ! " 

* In Ps. cxlii, 2. 

t Convivium Virginum, Orat. 8, Bib. Max. Pat. in, p. 692. 

J Com. in Apoc. c. 33, Bib. Max. Pat. v, p. 609. 

De Inst. Virg. vii and xiv. 



78 The Immaculate Conception 

It was indeed fit consolation for John, when 
Mary was with him no more, and he himself 
was in exile, to behold her again in the heavens, 
a type of the Church, and to record this portion 
of her mysteries. 

Primasius, Bishop of Adrumetum, who was 
a disciple of St Augustine, and assisted at the 
fifth General Council, says in his commentary, 
citing the words, " The Child was taken up to 
God and to His throne" :* "But if you would 
interpret this especially of the person of Christ, 
except the pains which we do not believe the 
Blessed Virgin had in child-bearing, as we know 
she contracted no sin from concupiscence in con 
ception, you may easily adapt the rest."t 

Ambrose Ansbertus, the Benedictine com 
mentator of the eighth century, says : " As the 
genus often appears in the species, so in this 
place the blessed and pious Virgin represents 
the Church, which daily brings forth new chil 
dren, of whom the general body of the Mediator 
is formed. Nor need we wonder that she should 
be the type of the Church, in whose blessed womb 
the Church deserved to be united with its head. 
But there are some things in what follows that 
do not literally apply to the Blessed Virgin, but 
to the elect of the Church/ 

Aretas, Bishop of Csesarea in the tenth cen 
tury, says in his commentary: "Some say this 
4 woman is the Mother of the Lord, and the 
sun with which she is clothed is the intellectual 
sun, Christ; and that the moon beneath her 
feet is the synagogue of the Jews, which can no 
longer increase." But, that she was pregnant 

* Apoc. xii, 5. 

t Com. in Apoc. 1. 3, Bib. Max. Pat. x, p. 316. 

In Apoc. 1. 5, Bib. Max. Pat. xiii, p. 530. 



The Fall of the Angels 79 

and cried out in giving birth, they resolve 
through Isaias, who says: "Before she was in 
labour, she brought forth ; before her time came 
to be delivered, she brought forth a man-child." * 
She was in pain lest her husband should suspect 
her of adultery, which the Scripture so far 
affirms in that he " sought to put her away 
privately." t 

St Bernard, speaking of the vision of the 
"woman," says : " Though the series of prophe 
cies shows that it refers to the Church, yet it is 
to be attributed without difficulty to the Blessed 
Virgin."^: 

And in the following century Abbot Rupert 
in his great mystic commentary explains the 
whole vision in the twofold sense we have given 
to it. Indeed, when we reflect that the vision 
of the dragon is commonly interpreted as re 
ferring to the historical event of the fall of 
Satan, why should we, and how can we, but 
interpret the vision of the "woman " and her 
divine Child, as historical of the predestined 
Incarnation of Christ from Mary ? And so Mary 
prefigures the Church, the dragon Antichrist. 

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 holding the dragon subject beneath 
her feet, is the symbol under which her Imma 
culate Conception is always represented to the 
faithful. This must have an especial meaning, 
and that meaning we have endeavoured to bring 

* Isa. Ixvi, 7. 

t Matt, i, iq ; In Apoc. c. 33, Bib. Max. Pat. ix, p. 769. 

Serm. in Dom. infra oct. Assump. 3. 

Com. in Apoc. 1. 7. 



8o The Immaculate Conception 

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 resplen 
dent 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 beneath her feet the first rebellion and 
apostasy 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 chosen organ of 
the Incarnation of the Son of God, she over 
threw that first heresy in heaven, as she has 
done so many since on earth. 



Original Sin 81 



CHAPTER IX 
Original Sin and its Effects 

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 and 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 ex 
presses 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 it alone 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 our after love eradicate the mischief 
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."* 

* John iii, 6, 7. 



82 The Immaculate Conception 

Yes, the divine life is extinct in that little creature, 
made for union with God. It breathes but a sen 
suous and an animal life. Its faculties are dread 
fully 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 eter 
nal life. Yet how deep are the scars left by that 
primal wound ! The grace of Christ holds pos 
session of the soul, but the body is still unrege- 
nerate 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 

* John iii, 6, 7. 



Original Sin 83 

more becomes the enchained and blindfold vic 
tim of the flesh. And the Apostle says of such 
an 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 ex 
perienced, 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 smoul 
der under the ashes of our clay, the fuel of con 
cupiscence 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 vigo 
rously 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 r And yet listen to the description 
which he draws of himself: "I know that there 
dwelleth 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 captivating me 
in the law of sin that is in my members. Un 
happy man that I am, who shall deliver me from 
the body of this death ? The grace of God by 

* I Cor. ii, 14, 



84 The Immaculate Conception 

Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore I myself with 
the mind serve the law 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 Mo 
ther 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 r 

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 r Alas 
for the fall ! We can only close our lips in 
silence, and then exclaim, "What is born of 
flesh is flesh. f For, behold I was conceived 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 culpability, as day re 
moves 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 de- 

* Rom. vii, 18-25. t John Hi, 6. I Ps. 1, 7. 



Original Sin 85 

bilities, habits, depraved emotions, penalties, 
and, above all, that irreparable loss of original 
innocence which, like lost virginity, 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 super 
natural 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 wrath, fitted for destruction " ?* 

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, 
still 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, be 
cause, as in Proverbs it is written, the glory of 
the children are their parents/ 1 consequently the 
ignominy of the mother is reflected on the son" ; J 
if, then, neither our faith nor our piety will allow 
that those motes and specks of sin fell ever on the 
face of Alary, though quickly brushed away, how 
can we suppose that she had been entirely covered 
and penetrated with sin of another kind, as with 
a pestilential leprosy r 

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 propaga 
tion, 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 " defiled, lose their 
innocence, are made by nature children of wrath, 

* Rom. ix, 22. t Prov. xvii, 6. 

iii, q. 27, a. 4 in corp. 



86 The Immaculate Conception 

become the servants of sin, and are brought 
under the power of the devil."* 

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 Incarnation, 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 con 
sider that if, as St Paul says, Christ took " the 
likeness of sinful flesh," f it was yet without sin, 
and that, by an infinite distance, He was " sepa 
rated 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 r When we 
consider the compass of God s power, and the 
height of His great plan, of which that Incarna 
tion wrought in Mary is the most unfathomable 
mystery ; when we consider how in accomplish 
ing this deepest of mysteries God surrounds it 
with exceptions which rise above all nature s 
laws ; when we consider that spirit of prepara 
tion 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 and the 
perfecting of our species need the crowning 
of perfection in woman as in man, and that 

* Sess. v, Dec. de Pec. orig. f Rom. viii, 3. 
? Heb. vii, 26. 



Original Sin 87 

the accumulation 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 splen 
dour of the Most Holy, mirror forth to the con 
templation of the Father and of the Holy Ghost, 
and of Himself, and that from eternity, the 
express form and image of His predestined Mo 
ther, 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 to the devil but that one moment, 
we give up everything, and abandon her stain 
less 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 moment ! For sin 
is measured not by time, but by depth of defile 
ment. 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 grace- 



88 The Immaculate Conception 

less, stripped of innocence, hateful to God, and 
defiled with sin r 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 
defiled. 

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 r 
Where but in His infinite power to save and 
redeem ? Where but in the inexhaustible trea 
sury of His grace r The law of transmission 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 re 
mains in that body still, after that baptism has 
repelled it from the soul. It is that previous 
absence of grace from the soul which leaves her 
a prey to the corrupting flesh. But let the soul 
of Mary be full 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 r Was 
she the offspring of His glorious blood ? Most 
surely she was redeemed by His blood. Her 
redemption was the very masterpiece of His re 
deeming wisdom. It presents one instance more, 
the very noblest, of that law of accumulation of 



Original Sin 89 

excellence, as the one absolutely perfect work of 
redemption. For, to enter upon the celebrated 
argument of Scotus, our Lord is the universal 
Redeemer and most perfect Mediator. Must we 
not, then, look for some most complete and 
exquisite example of His mediatorial and re 
deeming powers an example of such surpassing 
excellence that a greater cannot be imagined? 
And if He has not wrought that absolutely per 
fect 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 
pays the debt that it may not be incurred than 
he 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. That very ancient and famous book 
on Divine Names which bears the name of St 
Denis the Areopagite lays down a formal di 
vision of the two kinds of redemption, and says 
that this is the distinction of theologians the 
one preserving from evil and nothingness; the 
other repairing what is deteriorated by sin and 
error.* 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 pre- 
serving her from actual sin, He exercised His 

* viii, 9. t Serm. 22 in Cant. 6. 



go The Immaculate Conception 

greatest power by preserving her from original 
sin. And if, as our Lord said to Simon, more 
love is owing where more has been forgiven,* 
Mary was bound in more love to Jesus, as she 
had received from His hands that greatest of 
forgivenesses in the greatest of redemptions. 
When David said to God, " Thou hast redeemed 
me from the malignant sword, "t 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 His graces and His inno 
cence, 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. 

* Luke vii, 40. f Ps. cxliii, 10. 



The Fall of Man 91 



CHAPTER X 
The Fall of Man 

WHEN we recall 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 grace 
ful without fears ; the birds in their feathered 
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 lithe forms in the play 
ful 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 inno 
cent 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 are 
not our eyes moistened with sorrow that our mo 
ther 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 



92 The Immaculate Conception 

blighted, painted over though it be with count 
less fascinations and seductions, and look be 
neath 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 mountain- 
top, strewn with skulls 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, "O happy fault of Adam, 
which has deserved so great and blessed a Re 
deemer"?* 

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 

* Exultet, in off. Sab. Sane. 



The Fall of Man 93 

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 between 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/ f Terrible 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 
aught 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 tri 
umph 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, 
countermining 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 

* Gen. iii, 8. t Gen. iii, 15. 

Hymn, " Pange lingua gloriosi Lauream certaminis. 



94 The Immaculate Conception 

fruit of glory. So He took up death in Him 
self 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 vanquished 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 corrupted ; 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 contrast. 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 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. "f We heard St Iren- 
seus, the depositary of the traditions of St John, 

* viii, 5. f Ex act. dub. S. , et apud Surium, p. 697. 



The Fall of Man 95 

speaking the same language in a former chapter. 
He draws the comparison between Adam, formed 
by the hand of God, of that pure and virginal 
soil, and the eternal Word reforming 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.* Tertullian uses the same 
language, and applies to Mary the words of the 
Psalmist, " The earth shall give its benedic 
tions/ f The same idea is put forth by a host of 
the Fathers. They compare Mary also with 
paradise before sin was known there. They point 
out how Adam was formed of that earth alone, 
and Christ of Mary alone, and that, as the earth 
at the time was unaccursed, so Mary was un- 
accursed ; that there germinated in her neither 
the thorns of original nor the briars of actual 
sin. " She was an earth," says St John Dama 
scene, " not cursed like the former earth, whose 
fruits were bristling with thorns and briars, but 
on whom was the blessing of the Lord.":}: " She 
was a lily amongst thorns," says Theodotus 
of Ancyra ; " she was ignorant of the miseries of 
Eve." " 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, " O admirable 
flower, who, from that Eden out of which death 
was diffused into the universe, didst breathe the 
odour of immortality into the children of Eve."|| 
George of Nicomedia says that through Mary 

* S. Iren. Hceres. iii, 21, n. 10. 

t Ps. Ixvi, 7. De Carne Christi, 17; and contra Judasos, 13. 

+ 2 Serm. in Nativ. B. M. V., n. 4. 

Oral, in S. Dei Genitricem, n. II. 

|| Eulog". in officio elevationis panis. 



96 The Immaculate Conception 

" 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 con 
trasted 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, O innocent 
Mother of God." t 

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 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 r 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 Chrysologus 
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." 

* Orat. in Deip. Praesent., or. iv versus finem. 

t Menolog". die 8 April. 

Gen. iii, 20. 

Serm. 140 cle Annunciat. B. V. 



The Fall of Man 97 

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 moment, the coming 
of our salvation depended. It is this free co 
operation of Mary which explains so much of 
the language of the Fathers concerning her. Let 
us again listen to St Irenseus, 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 dis 
obedience was untied through Mary s obedience. 
For what the virgin Eve tied fast by unbelief, 
that the virgin Mary untied by faith." 1 And 
Tertullian says: "The serpent seduced Eve; 
Mary listened and consented to Gabriel. But 
the seduction of Eve brought death, the consent 
of Mary brought forth a Saviour to the world. 

* III, xxii, 4. 



98 The Immaculate Conception 

That was restored through Mary which, through 
Eve, had perished/ * St Epiphanius says that 
Eve foreshadowed 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 shalt return. t 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 that 
first Eve. But from Mary truly and indeed 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 these two. Satan may lie in wait for 
the new Eve, but God has set her foot upon his 
head, and threatens him with fear 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 re 
sounded through the trees of paradise, if that 
decree resounded for all future time, 4< I will 
will place enmity between thee and THE WOMAN," 
could they ever be friends r could Mary ever be 
his subject and his slave r If in the perpetual 
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 enmity against 

* Tertul. de Carne Christi, 17. f Gen. iii, iq. 
S. Epiph. Hseres. Ixxviii, 18. Gen. iii, 15. 



The Fall of Man 99 

him, how can this be explained except by an 
origin as well as by a life in which the devil had 
no part r 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 fromthe womb of sinless Mary. He would 
not have His predestined 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 delights, 
where thou presentest unto Him the flowering 
lily and the unfading rose ! To us who in the 
west of death drink in the pestilential bitterness 
so pernicious to our souls, thou art the paradise 
where flourishes the tree of life, whose fruit who 
ever tastes, gains immortality.* . . . This alone 
dost thou allege : < How can this be, for I know 
not man r f 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 im 
plies. For, beyond 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 com 
mand unto the cherubim that those laws thou 

* Oral. I in Deip. Praesent. Edita a Maraccio. Cf. Passa- 
glia I, 472. 

t Luke i, 34. 



loo The Immaculate Conception 

didst receive 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 deceit 
ful serpent. < The Holy Ghost shall descend m 
thee, and the power of the Most High shall over 
shadow thee/* When Eve conversed in paradise, 
the tortuous spirit, with his many wiles, insinu 
ated himself into her conversation under the 
winding folds of the serpent; but in thee the 
most holy and upright Spirit descended. For, 
as it is sung in the Canticles, indeed the 
upright love thee. "t 

* Luke i, 35. 

t Orat. I in Deip. Annunciat. Edita a Maraccio pp. io, 
109. Cf. Passaglia I, 472. 



Joachim and Anna 101 



CHAPTER XI 
Joachim and Anna 

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 of whom she would, in nature s course, 
have received the transmission of original sin ; 
but He would concentrate our attention 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, which did so greatly profit 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 supernatural. 
The question occupied the heretics as well as the 
orthodox. The apocryphal books go to extra 
vagant lengths in their history of her parents, 
Joachim and Anna. The Collyridians supposed 

* Orat. I in Deip. Annunciat. Edita a Maraccio, pp. 108, 
109. Cf. Passaglia I, 472, 



1O2 The Immaculate Conception 

her to have been born of a virgin, and offered 
her a species of divine worship, which was at 
once condemned,* whilst the Manicheans, if we 
are to believe St Thomasf and Capponi,* 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, by St Epiphanius,|| St Germanus 
of Constantinople^ Nicephorus,** St Andrew of 
Crete,tf George of Nicomedia,^ St John Dama 
scene^ and by others of the Fathers. Their 
festival was celebrated at an early period both 
in the eastern and the western Church. 

Hippolytus the Theban 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 mar 
ried in Bethlehem, and was the mother of 
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 

* Cf. S. Epiph. Haer. 79. 

t St Thorn. 1. 2 Sent. d. 4, q. 2, a. i. 

t Capponi in 3 p., q. 29, app. ad art. ii. 

Apud Niceph. 1. i. c. 7. 

II Epiph. Hsres. 78. 

If German, de Oblat. Mariae. Encomium in S. Deip. 
quando triennis praesentata est in templo. Bib. Max. Pat. xiii, 62. 

* Niceph. Hist. 1. i. c. 7. 

ht And. Cret. in B. M. diem Nat. or i B. Max. Pat. x, 620. 

t$ Geo. Nicomed. Orat. 4 in S. Deip. representationem in 
templo. 

S J. Damasc. 1. iv. De Fide Orthodoxa, et Orat. de 
Nativ. B. M. c. 14. Also Or. i in Nat. B. V. M. 7. 



Joachim and Anna 103 

born to us.* This would explain the origin of 
those who, after the Jewish custom, are called 
the brethren of the 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 unworthily 
of God as to suppose that He would do greater 
things for His servants than for His Mother, for 
the friends of the spouse than for the spouse ? 
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 Epiphanius, professedly quoting traditions), 
and Anna in her garden, an angel announced to 
them the conception of Mary.f St John Dama 
scene 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 
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 

* Hyp. Theb. Frag, ex syntagmata Chron. Galland. xiv. 
107. 

t On all this subject see the Apparatus of Mansi and 
Georgi to the Annals of Baronius, and Mazzola, de B. M. 
Virgine. St Epiphanius, Hseres. 79, adv. Coll. 5, de Lau- 
dibus B. V. M., St Germanus, 1. c. p. 63, and St John Damas 
cene, de Fid. orthodoxa iv, 14, speak of the apparition of 
the angel. 

S. J. Damasc. Horn, i in Nativ, B. V., n. 2, 



1O4 The Immaculate Conception 

sterile mothers were great personages, who pre 
sent most admirable similitudes in the course of 
their lives and actions. And as St John Dama 
scene again observes, " Anna who brought forth 
the Mother of God was not to yield to any of 
those mothers who had been made illustrious."* 

St Epiphanius says : " Her parents were 
Joachim and Anna, who in their lives pleased 
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 interpreted 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 heavenly 
and cherubic throne, the holy child Mary."t 
Hence the Church says in the collect on the 
feast of St Anna: "O God, who didst confer 
the grace on blessed Anna, that she might be 
worthy to become the mother of her who brought 
forth Thy Son, etc." { 

When Mary 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. 

* S. J. Damasc. 1. iv. de Fid., c. 14. 

t S. Epiph. de Laudibus, B. V. M. ad init. J Die 26 Julii. 

Niceph. citing- Evodius, patriarch of Antioch, 1. ii. 3 ; S. 
Greg. Nyss. de Christi Natal. ; S. J. Damasc. de Fid. Orth. 
c. 14; S. German., Constant. Encomium, etc., ut supra; S. 
And. Cret. Orat. in diem Nat. B. V. M. 5. 



Joachim and Anna 105 

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 miraculous as it is, that 
we speak when we contemplate the Immaculate 
Conception of the Mother of God, but it is of that 
divine conception which we are about to consider 
in the following chapter. 

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 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 regeneration, but from the source 
whence he was generated."* 

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



io6 The Immaculate Conception 

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 exempted from the 
general law and preserved immaculate. 



Its Moment 107 



CHAPTER XII 
The Moment of the Immaculate Conception 

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 precedes Him 
on His way. It is full of His light, and is the 
reflection of His purity. O Lucifer, no longer 
art thou "the bringer 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 together 
with her "Incarnate Son ; assailed by the proud 
and aspiring Lucifer from envy and 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; prefigured by the 
noblest women of Israel; renowned in the tra 
dition of the gentiles through their sibyls and 



io8 The Immaculate Conception 

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 salva 
tion to mankind ; raised to an office, to a dignity, 
and an alliance with her God which, next to her 
divine Son, makes her one and unapproachable 
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."f 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 
dience 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 im 
mortal soul. But no sooner does a soul come to 
animate the new offshoot from that old stock of 

* Ps. ii, 7. t Gen. i, 26. 



Its Moment 109 

Adam than it is overmastered by the con 
tamination which flows for ever onwards from 
its 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 entrnce of that free and holy soul, is 
quenched, and the flesh brought into subjection 
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 anticipated 
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 inexhaustible treasury of 
His cross, and wrought the most perfect of re 
demptions in the immaculate 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 



no The Immaculate Conception 

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.* 

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

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

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

" My spouse is as an enclosed garden, and a 
sealed fountain. || 

" 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 waters cannot quench 
charity, neither can the floods drown it." If 

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 
firstborn. Of all the redeemed within her gates, 
she sings first of the holiest and the most per 
fectly redeemed. The Church knows well of 
whom she sings when she chants this inspired 

* Cant, vi, 8. t Cant, iv, 7. J Cant, ii, 2. 

Cant, viii, 5. || Cant, iv, 12. 1[ Cant, viii, 6, 7. 



Its Moment m 

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 Scripture sings, who is 
the "fairest among women, and comely as Jeru 
salem, and who is terrible to Satan as an army 
set in array." * 

* Cant, i, 7 ; vi, 3. 



112 The Immaculate Conception 



CHAPTER XJII 
The Voice of the Fathers 

As no controversy had ever arisen with reference 
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 sub 
ject in the Fathers. Yet on careful investigation 
the whole mind of the oriental Church is found to 
have been imbued with the doctrine from the 
earliest times. And when in the western Church 
the great controversy with the Pelagians led to a 
thorough sifting of the subject 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 Immaculate Concep 
tion, not a single one of their number has posi 
tively said that Mary had ever contracted original 
sin, whilst at the same time the ambiguous 
language, which has been so 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 

* De natura et gratia, 36. Those who would see the tra 
dition drawn out in all its copiousness, must take in hand the 
extensive work of Passaglia, which has 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 
Virginis Conceptu Commentaries, and comprises three volumes 
in folio. In this chapter I am much indebted to the beautiful 
treatise of Abbot Gueranger. [Note to the first edition.] 



The Voice of the Fathers 113 

exemption from sin, the moment that doctrine is 
rightly apprehended and distinguished from what 
does not come under its definition. 

The first testimony is that which the Apostle 
St Andrew has left us in his profession of faith be 
fore the Proconsul Egeus, as recorded in the cele 
brated letter of the priests of Patras which relates 
his martyrdom. The apostle says: "The first 
man brought in death through the tree of pre 
varication, 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 only Virgin 
daughter of life, who brought forth the living 
Word, who exists of Himself, uncreated and 
Great or. "f 

Again, of that divine power which formed 

* Martyrium S. Andreas, ap., cap. v. ap. Gallandi, I, p. 156. 
The authenticity of this letter is asserted by Lumper, Gallandi, 
Morcelli, &c. And the Protestant Woog, who first published 
the Greek, has vindicated it against its assailants. Gallandi 
observes that it was used very early in the Offices of the Church. 
Dom Ceillier thinks it doubtful. 

t Epist. advers. Paulum Saraosat. in corpora ante resp. 



114 The Immaculate Conception 

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/ t Before this 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 Virgin, and Mother 
of God, was firmly set by the Holy Ghost^ and 
protected by the power of the Most High." St 
Dionysius also compares the Blessed Virgin to 
the garden of delights: "The only-begotten 
God, the Word, descended from heaven, and 
was born 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 blessed 
Virgin is drawn out by St Justing St Irenaeus,!! 
Tertullian,H Julian Firmicus,** St Cyril of Jeru- 
salem,ft and St Epiphanius.JJ As St Justin is 
the first of the series, from his dialogue with Try- 
pho $ 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 dis 
obedience took its beginning from the serpent by 
the same it might receive its destruction. For 

* Heb. ix, n. 

t Ibid. Respons. ad quaest. 7. 

J Ibid. Respons. ad quaest. 5 and 10. 

S. Justin. Dialog, cum Tryphonc, n. 100. 

!! S. Iren. cont. Hseres. 1. iii. c. 22, n. 4. 

If Tertull. de Carne Christi. c. 17. 

** Jul. Firmic. de errore prophan. relig. c. 26. 

ft S. Cyril. Jerusal. Catech. xii, 29. 

++ S. Epiph. Hseres. Ixxviii, 18. 

<5j No. loo. 



The Voice of the Fathers 115 

whilst Eve was yet Virgin and incorrupt, having 
conceived the words spoken to her by the ser 
pent, 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 of 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 tabernacle was 
exempt from putridity and corruption, which 
brought forth no corruption or sin. . . . But the 
Lord was exempt from sin, of wood not obnox 
ious 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."t 

Origen, or the ancient author of the homilies 
attributed to him, thus speaks of the Mother of 
God : " This virgin Mother of the only-begotten 
of God is called Mary, worthy of God, imma 
culate of the immaculate, one of the one." The 
author then addresses St Joseph : " Receive her 
as the heavenly treasure confided to thee, as the 
riches of the Deity, as most complete sanctity, as 
perfect justice. . . .She conceives 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 

t Orat 6 . in iliud, Dominus pascit me. Bibl. Patrum Gallandi, 
t. ii, p. 496. 



The Immaculate Conception 

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 require 
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: "Imma 
culate and uncontaminated, incorrupt and tho 
roughly 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 com 
parison more glorious than the rest of the super 
nal 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 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."t 

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

In the same century St Ambrose says, 

* In Orat. ad Sanct. Dei Genitricem, et Serm. de Laudibus 
B.M.V., Vol. II, pp. 575-7- 
t Ibid. 



The Voice of the Fathers 117 

addressing our Saviour on these words of the 
Psalmist, " I 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 receivest 
me, may be incorrupt, a virgin integral, through 
grace, from every stain of sin. "f 

We 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 where sin is concerned. 
For whence can we know the measure of grace 
conferred on her to vanquish sin on every side, 
on her who deserved to conceive and bring forth 
Him who, it is evident, had no sin ?"} St 
Augustine here speaks professedly of actual sin, 
but he lays doxvn 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_appeaj_Jo_jhg_pious 

* Ps. cxviii, 176. t Serm. 22 in Ps. cxviii. 
J De Natura et Gratia, c. 36. 



The Immaculate Conception 



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 compared with 
you, he deserves to be acquitted. He destroyed 
the virginity of Mary by subjecting her to the 
common laws of child-bearing, but you transfer 
Mary to the devil, by subjecting" 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."* 

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 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 transferred 
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 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 intro 
duced 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, O 
Manichean, is My mother, but she is made by 
My hand - If I could be defiled when I made 

* Opus imperfect, contra Julian. 1. 4, c. 122. 

t Inter opera spuria S. Aug-ustini contra 5 Haereses, c. 5. 



The Voice of the Fathers 



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 
animated. 

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, savs : 
"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/ f 

St Sabas, author of ono of the Greok Menolo- 
gies, says, in the 6th ode for January 18 : " Thou, 
O Virgin Mother of God, dost shed lustre on the 
universe, through thy progeny, even to its con 
fines. For of thee alone it is evident and notori 
ous that thou wast pure from eternity, as the 
one who didst possess the Sun of justice." And 
in the 3rd ode for January 3 the saint says to 
the blessed Virgin : " In thee, who never wast 
akin to any culpability, I place all my hope." 
And in the 5th ode for February 12 he says: 
" Thou, indeed, O Virgin, didst bring forth in 
a human body that Word of divine origin which 
before was incorporeal. For from eternity, be 
cause of the splendour of thy integrity, and thy 
virginal completeness, and because of thy gifts 
and graces, which kept thee exempt from every 
defect, manifestly thou wast alone worthy of the 
honour of so great a birth." 

Theodotus of Ancyra, in one of his discourses 
to the Fathers of the Council of Ephesus on the 
Holy Mother of God and the Holy Nativity of 

* Horn, viii de Natali Domini. 

t Serm. 140 Me Annunciat. B. M. V. 



12O The Immaculate Conception 

Christ, has the following beautiful and explicit 
passage: " In place of the Virgin Eve, who stood 
forth the minister of death, a Virgin is chosen 
unto obedience of life, who is most pleasing to 
God and full of grace: a Virgin comprised within 
the sex of woman, whilst exempt from woman s 
iniquity: a Virgin innocent, without spot, void 
of culpability, uncontaminated, untouched, holy 
in body and in soul, as a lily springing amongst 
thorns, untaught the ills of Eve. . . . Nor was 
there any communion in her of light with dark 
ness, but when not yet born, she was consecrated to 
God, and when born, as a monument of gratitude, 
was offered up a sacred foster-child to dwell in 
the temple and the holy place, a disciple of the 
law, anointed with the Holy Spirit, clothed with 
divine grace as with a mantle, wise of soul in 
things divine, espoused in her heart to God, 
breathing the splendours of sanctity from her 
eyes, and tuning canticles to the ears, her tongue 
of honied sweetness, her lips distilling the honey 
comb, beautiful in her steps, more beautiful in 
her conduct, venerable in her speech, more vene 
rable in her actions, meek in her demeanour, 
more meek in her movements, good in the sight 
of men, better far in the sight of God, and to 
speak in one word, all beautiful as an obedient 
will, all sweet as a store of unguents."* 

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 

* Orat. in Sanctam Dei Genetricem. Galland. ix, p. 475. 



The Voice of the Fathers 121 

uncreated majesty, for I shall dwell in a taber 
nacle which was created by Myself."* 

Another author says : " Amongst all the souls 
of men who are saved, there is, as the elect dove, 
that one and only one who brought forth Christ, 
the Virgin Mary, the youthful Mary, who truly 
excelled the Cherubim and Seraphim in purity." t 

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 
Woman s feet, lies crushed and trampled on. 
For the Virgin, who obtained grace to bring 
forth God, hath charmed away all its poisons ; 
and driven to hide himself in the grass, green as 
himself, he there, coiled up in his folds, torpidly 
vomits forth his no\v 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 Theo 
dore, patriarch of Jerusalem^ which was unam- 
"rnously 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."! 1 f 

Twelve years later the Council of Frankfort, 

whilst refuting 



_ 

~S. Proclus, L^datio in S. Dei Genetricem, orat. i, 3, 
and Orat. vi, 14; Galland. 5x, pp. 615, 642. 

t From Exposition of the Canticles collected from SS. 
Greg. Nys., Maximus and Nilus ; Galland. vi, p. 696. 

J Verses 146, 155. Galland. vin, p. 5 26 - 

Labb. Concil. t. vii, p. i?9- 



122 The Immaculate Conception 

gives expression to the same doctrine under 
another form. The fathers of this Council, in 
their synodal letter to the bishops of Spain, have 
to repel the assertion that Christ is the mere 
adopted Son of God, and they thus revive 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 ? 
a slave, how then was he the image of God r If 
free, why should not Christ, formed of the Virgin, 
be also free r For of a better earth, of an earth 
animate and immaculate, 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 virtues, and having no affinity with sin 
whatever."* 

The holy patriarch says again, in a discourse 
on the Nativity of the Mother of God: "Her 
body was so beautiful and flourished in so great 
a purity that it might receive even the incor 
poreal and immeasurable majesty of the super- 
essential nature through one of the three Per 
sons. This is Mary the Mother of God, the com 
mon refuge of Christians; the first revocation of 
the first fall of our first parents; the restitution of 
the fallen race to its right state." 

* Labb. t. vii, p. 1041. 

t Maracci in S. Germani Mariali. 

J This discourse is attributed by Combefis to St Andrew of 
Crete, Auct. Bib. i, p. 1325. Malou, SS. Pat rum Pietas Mari 
ana, p. 18. The reader will find in this little work an admirable 
selection of Homilies of the Fathers on the Blessed Virgin. 



The Voice of the Fathers 123 

And St Paschasius Rttdbert, in his book On 
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 Virgin, and to declare her free 
from all contagion of the first origin." 

As St John Damascene 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 inter 
esting to see what the two founders of theology 
have said on the subject of the Immaculate Con 
ception. And with these celebrated writers I 
shall conclude the testimonies from the Fathers, 
leaving the consideration of St Bernard to a later 
chapter. 

In his first homily on the Nativity of the bles 
sed Mary St John Damascene, 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 this paradise the 
way for the serpent was not open ; by the fascina 
tion of whose false divinity we are brought down 

* Horn. I in B.V. Nat. diem 2. 



124 The Immaculate Conception 

to the level of 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. M 
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, incomparable wood, who 
didst not admit the worm of the corruption of 
sin."f 

It is impossible not to conclude with St. 
Thomas that St Anselm has laid down the prin 
ciples of the Immaculate Conception. In his 
treatise on the Virginal Conception, the holy 
Archbishop of Canterbury expounds the prin 
ciple on which the doctrine rests in the following 
words : " It was fitting that the conception of 
that Man (Christ) should be accomplished 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 conceived 
and born from which He (the Holy Ghost) Him 
self proceeded.":]: But a purity so great that one 
more perfect cannot be imagined, can only be 

* Horn. II de Dormitione B.V. 2. 
t Horn. II in B.V. Nat. diem 7. 
4: De Conceptu Virginal!, c. 18. 



The Voice of the Fathers 125 

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." * 

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 is made Man." In this 
treatise St Anselm says that " the Blessed Virgin 
was one of those who were cleansed from sin be 
fore His (Christ s) nativity." f 

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 to 
gether by Petavius.* It amounts to some thirty 
passages from the whole collection of the Fathers. 
Some affirm that God alone, or that Christ alone 
is without sin, without 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 

* In i Sentent. d. 44, q. I, a, 3 ad 3am. 
t Cur Deus homo, 2, c. 16. 
t De Incarnatione xiv, 2. 



126 The Immaculate Conception 

asserts 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 Virgin 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 u flesh of sin," or speak of her as " sanctified," 
or as " cleansed," or as " purified." St Augus 
tine 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 sub 
ject of sin, as St Anselm and St Thomas have 
taught, and is of itself neither capable of justice nor 
of injustice. St Anselm says, " Original bin 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."t 
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 Augustine 
says ; but in the Blessed Virgin this was cleansed, 
purified and sanctified by grace. 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 ex 
pressed the same idea with greater fulness, in his 
sermon on the Assumption, he says, " The flesh 

* De Conceptu Virginal! et Pec. Ong. c. 3. 

t In 1-2, q. 83, a. i. 

J De Nuptiis et Concupiseentia, i, 24. 



The Voice of the Fathers 127 

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 a " 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. "t 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 sin ? 

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. 

* Or. VI Laudatio Dei Genitricis, n. 17. 
t De Trinitate 1. I, n. 13. 
J Orat. 51, n 18. 



128 The Immaculate Conception 



CHAPTER XIV 

Mahomet and Martin Luther on the Immacu 
late Conception 

THE leaders of the two greatest revolts against 
the Church of God, strange to say, have received 
and reflected, each in his peculiar way, the tra 
dition of the Church on the Immaculate Con 
ception. 

It is well known that Mahomet, during the 
commercial period of his "life, conversed with 
Christians on their doctrines, especially in his 
visit 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, how 
ever, owing to the rhapsodical character of its 
style, is not very intelligible to ordinary readers, 
without the aid of explanation. And that ex 
planation Mahommedan commentators will sup 
ply to us. The passage is contained in the third 
chapter of the Koran, which is entitled, "The 
Family of Imram." Imram, or Amram, accord 
ing to the commentators, is the husband of 
Anna and the father of Mary : it is another 
name for St Joachim. In this chapter it is said : 
" God hath surely chosen Adam, and Noah, 
and the family of Abraham, and the family ot 
Imram, above the rest of the world ; a race 
descending the one from the other ; God is He 



Mahomet 129 

who heareth and knoweth. Remember, when 
the wife of Imram (Anna) said, Lord, I have 
vowed unto Thee that which is in my womb, to 
to be dedicated* to thy service ; accept it there 
fore 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 commend her to thy protection, 
and also her issue, against Satan driven away 
with stones. + Therefore, the Lord accepted her 
with a gracious acceptance, and caused her to 
bear an excellent offspring." 

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 commend the 
care of her to Thee, and her offspring, to be 
defended from Satan struck with stones. The 
Lord therefore received her with a beautiful recep 
tion, and caused her to germinate with a beauti 
ful 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 

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

\ 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. 

o 



130 The Immaculate Conception 

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."* Hosse in Vaes, a 
century later, repeats the exposition in his Per 
sian commentary.! Cotada confirms the Ma 
li ommedan 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."i 

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. 

The Koran 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, O Mary, Verily 
God hath chosen thee, and hath purified thee, 
and hath chosen thee above all the women of 
the world : O Mary, be devout towards thy 

* Maracci, Alcorani Refutatio, in locum. 

t D Herbelot, Biblioth^que Orient, art. Miriam. 

J Maracci, ibid. 

D Herbelot, art. Adam. 



Mahomet 131 

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 
disgraceful as they are degrading, and tend 
ing 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 not. He then concluded 
with this appeal to the bishops : " How can you 
be surprised that Mahommedans have differed 
about Ayesha, since Christians have differed 
about that glorious Virgin Mary, who was a 
mine and a fountain of purity r" 

Let us now turn to Martin Luther. 

In a sermon on the Gospel from the eleventh 



132 The Immaculate Conception 

chapter of St Luke, " Blessed is the womb that 
bore thee" .... 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 
speaking 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 pre 
pared, 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 Him 
self, that is, without man. For it must so have 
been that Christ, God and man, would be con 
ceived in all His members perfect ; wherefore it 
was necessary that His should be the most spiri 
tual and most holy of all conceptions. But in 
the conception of the Virgin Mary, whose body 
was formed in progress 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 con 
ception, that is to say, the infusion of the soul, is 



Martin Luther 133 

piously believed to have been accomplished 
without original sin. So that, in that very 
infusing of the soul, the body was simultaneously 
purified from original 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 
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 concep 
tion, without grace, yet according to the second 
conception, she was full of grace. Nor was this 
without reason. For she was the midway be 
tween 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 con 
ceived without sin, as well in body as in soul, so 
the Virgin Mary was conceived, according to the 



134 The Immaculate Conception 

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, 
1 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 properly called 
blessed which is endowed with divine grace, that 
is, which is free from sin. Concerning this sub 
ject, 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."! 

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

* Luke i, 28. 

t Martini Lutheri Postillae. In die Conceptionis Manx 
Matris Dei. p. 360-1. Argentorati apud Georgium Ulricum 
Adlanum, anno. xxx. 



The Voice of Divines 135 



CHAPTER XV 
The Voice of the Divines 

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 earnestness 
of his denunciation, he questioned the mystery. 
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 unmistakable. He 
says : "If therefore she could not be sanctified 
before her conception, since she was not in exist 
ence; nor in the conception itself, on account of 
the sin which was in it, it follows that she was 
sanctified in the womb after conception, which, 
by her being cleansed from sin, made her nativity 
holy, not her conception/ * St Bernard, then, is 
clearly arguing upon the notion of the active con- 

* Ep. 174, ad Canon icos Lugfd. 



136 The Immaculate Conception 

ception, which the Church does not contemplate 
in the mystery. Hence Albert the Great observes : 
" We say that the Blessed Virgin was not sancti 
fied before animation, and the affirmative con 
trary to this is the heresy condemned by St 
Bernard in his epistle to the canons of Lyons."* 
And St Bonaventure also says that from St Ber 
nard s words " it is simply to be conceded that 
her flesh was not sanctified before animation."* 

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 at 
the conclusion of the controversy he expressed 
his agreement with Nicholas in these words : 
" You praise the Blessed Virgin, and I praise her. 
You preach her holy, so do I. You exalt her 
above the angelic choirs, so do I. You say she 
was exempt from all sin, and I say it. Turn 
and re-turn the question of her veneration, and 
of her glorification in every condition, and I go 
with you, I feel with you."f 

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 a former chapter from his 
;< Treatise on the Sentences," yet in his great 
work, the "Sum of Theology/ 1 he concluded 

* In 3, dist. 3, art. 4. 

t Pet. Gel. 1. 9 Ep. 10 ; Bib. Max. Patr., Vol. XXIII. 



The Voice of Divines 137 

against it. Much discussion has arisen as to 
whether St Thomas did or did not deny that the 
Blessed Virgin was immaculate at the instant 
of her animation. 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 are found to 
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, repre 
sent 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 sanctification. 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 essen 
tial 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 conception was 
used in different senses, and those different senses 
had not been separated by careful definitions. 
The language employed in certain of the argu 
ments wanted the same kind of clearing up. 
The argument laboured, in fact, under an am- 



138 The Immaculate Conception 

biguous middle term. Thus the disputants were 
often contending for the same truths, and their 
words alone were actually in conflict. Whilst 
speaking of these disputes, it may be well to 
call to mind that the teaching authority in the 
Church is in the episcopacy, and not in the 
schools of theology. The work of theologians 
is to bring together and classify the teachings of 
authority, and to elucidate 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 since been brought to light 
and made accessible. 

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. 

But the famous John Duns Scotus, 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 objec 
tions in a manner so satisfactory, that from that 
moment it prevailed. It was Scotus who re 
moved 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 redemp 
tions through that very mystery of her imma- 



The Voice of Divines 139 

culate preservation from all sin. He says: 
" The Blessed Virgin was never at enmity [with 
God] on account of actual sin nor on account of 
original sin ; she would have been so, however, 
had she not been preserved from it." * And from 
this time the doctrine of the Immaculate Concep 
tion not only gained a vast deal of ground in the 
schools of the universities and became the com 
mon opinion there, but the Feast of the Concep 
tion came to be established in Rome. This was 
done under Nicholas 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 Domi 
nicans all or nearly all the religious orders took 
it up, and the devotion sank deeply into the 
hearts of the people. 

Still the controversy continued, but the de 
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 dispute 
was brought before the Council of Basle, and 
after it had been discussed for the space of two 
years before that assemblage, the bishops de 
clared the Immaculate Conception to be a doc 
trine 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. Its decree is only adduced to show the 
sentiments entertained by the bishops there_as- 

* III Dist. xviii, q. 13. t Mansi, xxix, 182. 



140 The Immaculate Conception 

sembled. The controversy therefore continued, 
until in the year 1476 Pope Sixtus IV, with a 
view of putting- a stop to the scandals and dis- 
edification which it occasioned, granted indul 
gences to all who recited the canonical office or 
assisted at the mass of the Immaculate Concep 
tion.* And as this did not prove sufficient to 
appease the conflict, in 1483 the same pope pub 
lished 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.f 

In the year 1546 the great Council of Trent 
declared that, " It was not the intention of this 
holy Synod to include in the decree which con 
cerned original sin the blessed and immaculate 
Virgin Alary, Mother of God.":}: But as this decree 
did not define the doctrine although it was well 
known that with very few exceptions the great 
body of the bishops assembled were inclined to 
the pious belief the theological opponents of 
the mystery, though more and more reduced 
in numbers, did not yield in their pertinacity. 
But as great scandal and offence were given in 
the Church by persons who brought up the dis 
cussion in public disputations, and even in the 
pulpit, St Pius V not only condemned the 
proposition (73) of Baius, that "No one but Christ 
was without original sin, and that therefore the 
Blessed Virgin had died because of the sin con 
tracted 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 

* Cum prse excelsa, March, 1476. Mansi, xxxii, 373. 
t Grave nimis, Sep., 1483. Mansi, xxxii, p. 374. 
Sess, V, de Peccato orig. 5, 



The Voice of Divines 141 

pope published another constitution, in which he 
forbade all public discussions by word or writing 
in any living language from 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 went on, 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 decided and 
published a statute to the effect that hence 
forward 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 preserved free and ex 
empt from original sin. Toulouse followed the 
example ; and in Italy, Bologna, and Naples ; in 
Germany Cologne, Mayence and Vienna; in Bel 
gium Louvain ; in England before the reforma 
tion, Oxford and Cambridge; in Spain Sala 
manca, Toledo, Seville and Valentia ; in 
Portugal Coimbra and Evora ; in South Ame 
rica Mexico and Lima ; all these great universi 
ties and seats of theological learning bound their 
members by oath to defend the Immaculate 
Conception. 

The most celebrated religious Orders ren 
dered homage to the privilege of Mary; several of 
them had done so 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- 

* Super Speculam, Dec., 1570; Quod a nobis, July, 1568; 
Superni omnipotentis, March, I57 1 - 



The Immaculate Conception 



served by the Holy Ghost, and triumphing 
without harm over the great sin of our first 
parents." 

The Friars Minor, in a general Chapter in 
1621, declared unanimously that they had ho 
noured 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 devotion 
to it. In the year 1621, at a General Chapter 
held in Segovia in Spain, all the Observant 
Franciscans renewed the oath that their prede 
cessors in the Seraphic Order had already taken 
to mantain and defend the belief in the Immacu 
late Conception, and to teach it everywhere to 
Christian peoples.* 

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 Alary for the Redemption of Cap 
tives bore the white scapular in memory of the 
Immaculate Conception, and ended their daily 
meditation with the following prayer: "O 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 Calatrava 
and of Alcantara went still further, for they all 
vowed to defend the doctrine with their blood. 
The Carthusians, the Cistercians, the Celes- 
the Jeronimites, the Minims, the Camal- 

* Palmier Seraphique, Tom. xii, 119. 



The Voice of Divines 143 

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 doc 
trines 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 declared that the saint did not 
deny but that he actually maintained the im 
maculate preservation of Mary at the instant of 
her animation, yet the common conclusion was 
to the contrary. The principal men of the Order 
who held the former opinion, were the English 
man John Bromyard, the Spaniard John of St 
Thomas, and Capponi the Italian Dominican, 
who in his learned elucidations on the Sum of 
St Thomas holds that the angelic doctor is not 
to be understood as speaking of original sin as 
if actually incurred by the Blessed Virgin, but 
simply of the debt of its criminality which 
would have been incurred, if by a singular pri 
vilege she had not been preserved from it.* 

There can be no doubt but that, had St 
Bernard 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 Augustine, 
that the Church never celebrates any festival 
except of what is holy. And they both had 
proved the holiness of the birth of the Blessed 

* Notat. 3 ad iii, q. 27, a. 2. 



144 The Immaculate Conception 

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 judgement especially of the 
Roman Church, and if I think in anything 
differently, I am prepared to be amended by 
its judgement."* And St Thomas, in the very 
article in which he seems to stand opposed to 
the pious belief, makes the following declara 
tion : " Although 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, nor is it to be understood, because the festival 
of the Conception is celebrated, that she was holy 
in her conception, but because, the time when 
she was sanctified being unknown, it is rather the 
feast of her sanctification than conception which 
is celebrated on the festival day of the concep 
tion."! 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 r What would 
they have said had they witnessed the devotion 
and the fervour with which it has long been 
everywhere celebrated r 

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 
the Blessed Virgin. Historians affirm that St 

* Ep. 174 ad Can. Lugxl. till, q. 27, a. 2, ad 3 am. 



The Voice of Divines 145 

Dominic wrote a book against the Albigenses 
in defence of three principles, one of which was 
the Immaculate Conception. They appeal to 
a tablet preserved in the archives of Barcelona 
from almost the days of St Dominic, who died 
in 1 22 1. 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 both maintained the re 
demption of Christ, and defended the Immacu 
late Conception of the Blessed Virgin. He 
maintained in it that it was of her the Holy 
Ghost had said through Solomon : " Thou art 
all fair, O 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 becoming 
that it should be in the second Adam." It is 
further said that the Albigenses with whom the 
saint disputed, declared that if his book were 
cast into the fire and came out unharmed, they 
would believe in it, and that St Dominic threw 
it into a furnace, and it did come out un 
injured, f 

Spondanus in his annals,J Catherinus and 
other writers assert that the feast of the Conception 
was celebrated in the Dominican Order from its 
very commencement until the year 1387, when 

* Cant, vi, 7. 

t For the authorities see Innocentia Vindicata, sec. 5. 

Ad An. 1387. 

IO 



146 The Immaculate Conception 

the word Conception was changed for that of 
Sanctification. In an ancient Dominican Mar- 
tyrology, 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: "O God, 
who for the salvation of the human race didst 
deign to assume flesh from the glorious Virgin, 
and didst choose her from before the ages to be 
Thy mother, and to be conceived without stain, 
grant," etc.; from the hymn at Tierce: "The 
praiseworthy Conception 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 con 
ceived." * 

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, Melchior Ca- 
nus and Natalis Alexander. It is now two hun 
dred years since Nieremberg enumerated five 
generals, twelve masters of the Sacred Palace, 
and about a hundred doctors of the Dominican 
Order, who had written or spoken in defence of 
the Immaculate Conception. f 

The Dominicans of Spain in their Provincial 
Chapter of 1524 decreed that, "Whereas the 
Dominican Order has hitherto sustained the 

* " Innocentia Vindicata," sec. v, p. 36. 
t " Innocentia Vindicata," see. v. 



The Voice of Divines 147 

opinion that the Blessed Virgin was conceived 
in original sin, this is not now so to be con 
sidered, for it is a matter of no utility, and is ex 
ceedingly scandalous, especially as almost the 
entire Church (whose usage and authority should 
hold, according to St Thomas, against the dictum 
of any individual doctor) asserts at this time that 
she was preserved therefrom." And the Pro 
vincial 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 glo 
rious saint of the Dominican Order was opposed 
to the exalted privilege of the Mother of God, 
and that she was illuminated to do so by express 
revelation. But although the edition published 
at Brixen in 1496 contains a passage to this 
effect, and it is reprinted in the Aldine edition 
of 1500, in the more esteemed edition published 
at Cologne in 1559, and corrected by Loher upon 
a MS. supposed by Echard to be contemporary 
with the original, it is left out. And the Bol- 
landists have, upon the authority of this edition, 
pronounced it spurious. But the standard edi 
tion is that given to the world by Gigli, a noble 
Siennese, in 1707. All the original manuscripts 
extant were brought together for the preparation 
of this edition, and Gigli professes to give the 
twenty-six prayers of the saint exactly as they 
came from her lips in her native Siennese. " I 
now restore them," he says in the preface of the 
fourth volume of her works, " most exactly as 
they were dictated by her and collected by 
Thomas Buonconti of Pisa, one of her disciples 
and followers." But Gigli rejects the supposed 



148 The Immaculate Conception 

revelation, and gives his reasons for doing so.* 
Its authenticity has been learnedly refuted by 
del Rio,f Lancisius,^ Wadding; and Peter de 
Alva, || the learned Dom Cardinal Gotti f and 
Maracci, who wrote a treatise expressly on the 
subject.** St Antonius has been unfairly quoted 
as the authority for this fictitious revelation, and 
for placing it in antagonism with the revelations 
of St Bridget for the true doctrine. The sainted 
Archbishop of Florence only quotes a certain 
John of Naples, who is the first author of the 
assertion. ft And in his " Life of St Catherine" 
he says nothing of this revelation, though he 
treats professedly of her revelations. Neither 
does the Blessed Raymund of Capua, the con 
fessor and amanuensis of the saint, who wrote 
many particulars of her revelations in his cele 
brated Life of the Saint. Nor does Thomas of 
Sienna, nor any other of her disciples, who re 
corded her acts so carefully, though such a reve 
lation would have been too remarkable in that 
age of the controversy, and too much in accord 
with the ideas of many of the Dominican school, 
to have been easily passed over. The whole 
story rests on the Brixian edition, and the pas 
sage in the prayer is supposed to have been 
foisted (?) in at that bitter period of the con 
troversy by an antagonist of the Immaculate 

* Gigli refers at length for his reasons 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. 

t L. 4 Disquisit. Magic, q. 3, s. 4. 

Opuscula, t. 2, opus. ii. 

In descriptione Legationis Cathol. Regum., sec. 3, oral. 
10, ad Paulum V. 

|| In Sole Veritatis, n. 201. 

II La vera Chiesa di Christo, t. I, cap. 7. 

** Vindicatio S. Catherinac Siensis. 

ft In la Summas, tit. 8, c. 2. 



The Voice of Divines 149 

Conception. Peter de Alva maintains that it 
is traceable to Vincent Bandello. On examina 
tion it will be found, first, that the passage is not 
in the usual and very remarkable style of St 
Catherine; secondly, it stands in the style of a 
scholastic argument, and this is a note against 
the genuineness of a revelation; thirdly, it does 
not cohere with the authentic portion of the 
prayer, though conjoined to it as an inference 
with a "therefore is the Eternal Word given unto 
us," for what precedes is but a sharp rebuke to 
a grievous sinner; fourthly, it denies the pre 
servation of the Blessed Virgin to be possible; 
fifthly, from the impossibility of sanctification 
before animation it argues to the impossibility of 
sanctification until after animation; sixthly, it 
speaks of original sin being a certain putridity 
in the flesh ; seventhly, whilst written as a scho 
lastic argument, it terminates in the tone of a 
revelation, " Thou knowest, O Lord, that this is 
truth/ even though, as Cardinal Gotti remarks, 
St Catherine terminated none of her authentic 
prayers in this form.* 

The Dominican Order had ever been con 
spicuous for their devotion to the Blessed Virgin ; 
they had been the greatest promoters of that de 
votion through the Rosary; they had been foun 
ded under her especial patronage, and they wore 
their white habit in her honour. That devotion 
and the general action of the Church, have gra 
dually worn away the prejudice in which so 
many of its members had been held as it were 
spell-bound against this doctrine by the in 
fluence of that great light of the schools, St 
Thomas. Yet it should be observed that, if as 
individuals a considerable number of Dominican 

* Vid. Plarra, Causa Immac. Concept., act. 6, art. i, test. 10. 



150 The Immaculate Conception 

theologians have held opinions which brought 
the Immaculate Conception into question, the 
Order has never itself and as a body uttered 
aught in any form, whether in its general or in 
its provincial chapters, against the doctrine so 
as authoritatively to exercise influence upon its 
members.* And in the year 1843 their general 
petitioned the Holy See that the festival of the 
Conception might be celebrated throughout the 
Order with a solemn octave, and that the words 
" Immaculate Conception " might be used by 
them in the preface of the Mass, and that they 
might insert the words " Queen, conceived with 
out original sin " in the Litany. 

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 Dominicans 
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 prognosti 
cate the restoration of that illustrious and vener 
able Order to its ancient splendour, under the 
protection of their immaculate patroness, of which 
restoration it is already giving goodly signs. 

To conclude the history of the contest in the 
briefest manner. In the year 1622, in order to 

* The Procurator-General of the Dominicans, Father M. 
Francis Gaude, has just issued a work on the relation of the 
Dominican Order with the doctrine of the Immaculate Concep 
tion, and expressive of the firm adhesion of the Order to the 
dogmatic definition. It is entitled, " De Immaculate Deiparse 
Conceptu, ejtisque Dogmatica Definitione, in Ordine praesertim 
ad Scholam Thomisticam et Institutum F.F. Prredicatorum." 



The Voice of Divines 151 

put an end to those private disputations and writ 
ings which were still going- on, as the Pope inti 
mates, between certain religious Orders, to the 
disedification of the faithful, Gregory XV im 
posed an absolute silence on those who either in 
public or in private, by speech or writing, were 
daring enough to affirm that the Blessed Virgin 
was conceived in original sin, until the Holy See 
should define the question. Those only were ex 
empted from the severe penalties by which this 
constitution was enforced, 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 intemperate persons here 
and there who raised the question under a new 
form. These persons affirmed that though the 
word " Immaculate " had indeed been associated 
with the Blessed Virgin by the Council of Trent 
as a general epithet, yet it was not to be applied 
to her Conception. The principal movers in this 
controversy were Bartholomew Spina and the 
unsound Launoy. 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 possession of that devotion and festivla 
which so many Pontiffs had favoured. He de 
fined the true sense of the word Conception, as 
employed in the offices and devotions of the 

* Sanctissimus Dominus Nostt,T, May 24, 1622. 



The Immaculate Conception 



Church and in the constitutions of his predeces 
sors, and explained it to signify that the belief 
which the ancient piety of the faithful of Christ 
had felt, and which almost all Catholics em 
braced, was that " The soul of the Blessed Vir 
gin, in the first instant of its creation 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, preserved and 
made exempt from original sin."f Finally, this 
Pope forbade all further glossing or interpreting 
of the Scriptures, Fathers or Doctors, in what 
ever way, as against the common and pious 
sentiment of the faithful. After this the faith 
ful were left in peace, except when such in 
temperate men as Muratori and Ricci in the 
last century, or Hermes in the present pre 
sumed to assail the holy mystery once more. 
But it is a significant fact that Muratori ap 
peared under a mask, and in the three books 
which he published as often changed his as 
sumed name ; but the only result of his writings 
was to bring out to the light some of the most 
valuable works that were ever penned in vindica 
tion 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 

* Sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum, Dec. 8, 1661 

n H t t ee v S ; PeC J ally C> Octavius Valerius, De Superstitiosa Ti- 
miditate Yitanda, etc. ; a work replete with curious learning. 



The Voice of Divines 153 

holiness of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin 
which began to be celebrated, misled by the am 
biguity of the word. The word itself conveyed 
two senses. St Bernard took up the term in its 
popular sense, which is not the one which the 
Church and her traditions contemplate. 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 be 
lief, not an article of faith, because he did not 
fairly see his way to reconcile it with the great 
dogmas of original sin and redemption. Scotus 
solved the difficulties of St Thomas. After this, 
opposition 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 be 
fore the bishops assembled in their councils but 
they showed themselves inclined to it. It never 
came before the sovereign Pontiffs, but they pro 
tected it as a doctrine and encouraged it as a 
devotion. 

Why, then, should the debate have been 
allowed to continue for so long a time r A 
full reply to this question would require an en 
tire treatise on the Providence which guides the 
events within the Church to her final exaltation. 
Rosmini has written such a treatise, as St Augus 
tine did before him, and their lofty principles re 
quire but to be applied to this particular case. I 
must content myself with a few very brief re 
marks. 

God has allowed certain truths, though im- 



154 The Immaculate Conception 

plicitly contained in Scripture and tradition, to 
remain under a greater or less degree of obscu 
rity up to a particular time. Such truths may 
even be explicitly apprehended and expressed 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 heretics. 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 in 
volving a practical question which demanded in 
stant decision. The first thing questioned respect 
ing 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 ex 
ample. 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 ambigu 
ous : it might refer, and in St Bernard 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 disedification so widely as to show 
the sense which was latent in the Church. Still 
there was no great practical question as yet de 
manding an immediate solution. The devotion 
continued to spread with the festival, but the 
head of the Church had not yet sanctioned 



The Voice of Divines 155 

it either by voice or example. Had the festi 
val been universal at that time, the Church 
must soon have spoken. But as long as the 
festival was but partial, and had not the high 
est sanction, and as long as the language 
on both sides continued to be ambiguous, 
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 contend 
ing for the same thing under a different phrase 
ology, 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 overwhelming ma 
jority appeared on the side of truth as soon as it 
was intelligibly put forth. Opposition 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 sanc- 
tification as taking place soon after, though not 
at the moment of animation. Nor was this main 
tained, by continually dwindling numbers, with 
out offending the general 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 rea 
soning. This takes us from the apostolic age to 
the twelfth century. The second period is that 
in which reasoning was first applied to the mys 
tery. And then appeared a result that often has 



156 The Immaculate Conception 

occurred when reason is first applied to a re 
vealed truth. Reason had to labour long before 
it could make the necessary discriminations, ap 
proximate the various principles which bore upon 
it, place the subject exactly in its proper light, 
adjust its relations with truths universally ad 
mitted, and reconcile it with conclusions worked 
out already in collateral subjects. But at all this 
reasoning 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 question, 
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 now many great 
minds made their offerings to the Immaculate 
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 re 
warded more abundantly ! 



The Voice of Divines 157 

Great virtues were brought into exercise, and 
a generous faith was cultivated by the very diffi 
culties and denials with which devotion to the 
mystery was surrounded. And the faithful clung 
more fervently to the Mother of God for the ex 
press reason that her great privilege was gain 
said. 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: 

" 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 afterwards 
came the written law, which restrained every in 
ordinate emotion; so has it pleased God that 
even my friends should have pious doubts con 
cerning my Conception, and that each should 
display his zeal, until at the preordained time the 
truth shall shine forth/ * 

* Book vi, 55. 



158 The Immaculate Conception 



CHAPTER XVI 

The Voice of the Liturgy and the Voice of 
the Faithful 

THE festival of our Lady s Conception was cele 
brated 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. In the West 
ern Church this feast has been always celebrated 
on the eighth, whilst 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 flourished in the 
year 484. The Typic was the order or directory 
for regulating the divine office throughout the 
year, used in the monasteries of Jerusalem.* The 
next mention of the feast is by St Andrew of 
Crete, who was martyred in the year 761, and 
who also composed a hymn used in the office of 
the festival. t 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 this festival has precedence over other 
solemnities by reason of the miracles consum- 

* It should, however, be observed that this Typic was found 
in a very damaged condition, and restored by St John Damas 
cene. Vid. Cave, Historia Literaria, p. 296. But it should like 
wise be remembered that St Sabas was a strenuous assertor of 
the mystery in his Menology. 

t Bib. Max. Pat. x, p. 685. Ceiller, xii, 58, says the Odes 
attributed to St Andrew are not his. 



The Voice of the Liturgy 159 

mated 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 bless 
ings, 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." " No 
one was ever without culpability like thee, O 
subject to no stain. "t 

In the most ancient of the Eastern Liturgies, 
the origin of which is ascribed to St James, 
the Blessed Virgin is commemorated as " 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 title of: " Our holy, praiseworthy and 
immaculate Lady, the at all times blessed Mary, 
Mother of God." In the Alexandrian liturgy 
of St Basil, she is invoked as : " The most holy, 
most glorious, immaculate, accumulated with^ 
blessings, our Lady, Mother of God, and ever" 
Virgin Mary." || 

The word " Immaculate " is applied so con 
stantly and in all ages as a title to the Blessed 

* In Concep. S. Annae, ad init. apud Cambefis, Auct. Bib. I, 
p. 1015. 

t Mt^moire sur la Question de 1 Immacul^ Conception, p. 77. 

$ Bibliothec. Max^Patrum, t. ii, p. 3. 

De Sacris Ordinat. (1645) p. 416, (1695) p. 346. 

H R&iaudot, Liturtj. Orient. Collec. I, p. 70. 



160 The Immaculate Conception 

Virgin, that it may be well to consider what was 
the precise meaning that was attached to it. 
Hesychius explains it as signifying pure and 
inculpable. 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 u Immaculate " as signi 
fying " one cleansed from all vice, crime and 
defilement, one who is without spot, iniquity 
and sin/" St Ambrose says of Christ, that He 
was " immaculate " because He was not defiled 
by the ordinary conditions of birth, t St Ephrem 
says of Mary, she is u Immaculate 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 represented 
the spotless perfection of Christ. It is used of 
Christ by St Paul as the immaculate or spot 
less Victim, and by St Peter, when He speaks 
of Christ as the immaculate or spotless Lamb.il 
It is used in no other sense in the New Testa 
ment, except when applied to the Church as the 
body of Christ, K or to the holy members of the 
Church who possess the fruit of redemption;** or 
to the blessed in heaven. ft In liturgical lan 
guage it is limited to the most Holy Eucharist, 
as the spotless and inculpable victim, and to the 
Blessed Virgin, as the spotless and inculpable 



* In Ps. cxviii, n. i. 

t St Ambrose, Enarr. in Ps. xl, ad verba " Propter inno 
centiam meam." 

Oratio ad SS. Dei Genitricem. 

Heb. ix, 14. || i Pet. i, 19. IF Eph. v, 27. 
* Eph. i, 4; Coloss. i, 22. ft Jude v, 24; Apoc. xiv, 5, 

See Passaglia, who treats the subject at length, sec. 2, 
c. i, art. i ; also the Cursus Completus Theologian, t. xxvi, p. 
659, de Immaculata. 



The Voice of the Liturgy 



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 tenth century, and Julian, a writer 
of that period, ascribes its introduction to St 
Ildephonsus three centuries earlier. In the 
Mozarabic Ritual, as revised by St Ildephonsus 
in the seventh and approved by Pope John X 
in the ninth century, in the canon of the Mass 
there occur these words : " Virgin Mother of 
God, whose true Conception we this day cele 
brate." And in the blessing for the people 
there are these words : " May He who pre 
serves His Mother from the contagion of cor 
ruption, keep our heart immaculate from crime. 3 * 
During its most flourishing periods the sove 
reigns, prelates and people of Spain were ever 
urgent to obtain a definition of this myster}^, 
which has always been a most cherished object 
of the devotion of that nation. 

In a church at Naples there is a celebrated 
calendar engraved on marble in the ninth cen 
tury, and on it "the Conception of the Holy 
Virgin Mary " is marked on December 9, the 
day on which it is celebrated by the Greeks, 
from which Naples seems to have derived the 
feast. 

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 Ramsey, during 
a storm at sea in the time of William the Con 
queror. Besides the two letters appended to 

* Sfrondato, Innocentia Yindicata, sec. vi, n. 4 pp. 48 and 49. 

ii 



162 The Immaculate Conception 

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 Alen9on. 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 Hel- 
sinus is also mentioned in the register of Ramsey 
Abbey, which is preserved in the Exchequer. 
There is a curious allusion to it in St Bonaven- 
ture on the Sentences! wTitten about the middle 
of the thirteenth century. He says : " I dare not 
altogether reprehend the celebration of the Con 
ception, for, as some say, it had its beginning not 
in human invention but in divine revelation. . . . 
But as this is not of authority, we are not com 
pelled to believe it; but as it is not against right 
faith, we are not compelled to deny it." But 
St Bonaventure s difficulty at that time was, as 
he had said just before, " How could we se 
curely celebrate the Conception unless the 
Blessed Virgin was sanctified before anima 
tion ? " It is a glimpse of the state of the con 
troversy as it then existed. It still bore on the 
festival and on the sense of the word conception 
which the festival had introduced. And St 
Bonaventure, as St Bernard, still saw no other 
sense in it, than its common acceptation as 
applied to the active or parental conception. 
The saint hesitates between the difficulty aris 
ing from the sense he attaches to the word con- 

* Wace was a native of Jersey, born probably at the end of 
the eleventh century, a son of one of the Norman barons who 
accompanied the Conqueror to England. He was made a 
canon of Hayeux on the recommendation of Henry II. 

t In III dist. 3, p. i, q. i, ad 



The Voice of the Faithful 163 

ception, and the weight to be attached to the 
vision, aud he only escapes from it by supposing 
that the festival "may perhaps refer" to the day 
of sanctification and not of conception." I shall 
give the narrative of the vision 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 
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 faithfully 
performed his mission, he re-embarked to return 
to England. His ship had already accomplished 
more than half her passage when suddenly there 
uprose a tempest which convulsed both sea and 
sky. The seamen, exhausted 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 commended their souls to 
God with loud cries. They called upon the Mo 
ther of God, the refuge of the miserable and the 
hope of the despairing. 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? As the abbot said that with 

* In the Univers, Dec. 12, 1854. 



164 The Immaculate Conception 

all his heart he wished to do so, that august per 
sonage said to him : Know, then, that I am sent 
by our Lady, Alary, the Mother of God, whom 
thou hast so piously invoked. And if thou wilt 
attend to my words thou shalt be saved from the 
great peril of the deep, thou and thy com 
panions. The abbot promised him all obedi 
ence. * 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 
celebration of this festival/ Helsinus was a pru 
dent man, and he asked, * On what day must 
this feast be celebrated r On the eighth of De 
cember. < And what office shall we taker The 
angel answered: * The entire office of the Nati 
vity 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 Ramsey." 

The vision is said to have taken place in the 
year 1070. After St Anselm had been made 
Archbishop of Canterbury, in the year 1093, he is 
said to have established the feast of the Concep 
tion in the province of Canterbury. 

In a council of that province held in London, 
under Archbishop Mepham, in the year 1328, 

* On this subject see Appendix. Cf. Father Thurston s 
article in the " Month " for July, 1904. He says (p. 8): How 
ever improbable we may consider the supernatural elements of 
the narrative, it must be owned that the external facts are quite 
curiously confirmed by our extant records." He then quotes 
several which go to show that the sending 1 of Helsinus to Den 
mark by William the Conqueror is an historical fact. 



The Voice of the Faithful 165 

the feast was made of solemn observance. And 
the archbishop passed a decree in the following 
terms: " Adhering to the footsteps of the ve 
nerable 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; 
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 
1 1 19 to 1 146, appointed the feast to be celebrated 
in his monastery in copes, in the same manner 
as the Ascension. f It continued to be solemnly 
observed in England down to the Reformation, 
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 I, St Anselm 
spread devotion to the Conception of the Mother 
of God in that country. It is the tradition of 
Normandy that he was the means of the estab 
lishment 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 u On the Vir 
ginal Conception." The feast was introduced 
into Belgium about the year 1200. Hungary 
is stated by Vincartius to have received it 
much earlier. 

* Mansi, xxv, p. 829. 

f Matthew of Paris, Vitas Abbatum, vita Gaufndi, p. 62. 



166 The Immaculate Conception 

As early as 1072, John of Bayeux, Archbishop 
of Rouen, established a confraternity of the Im 
maculate 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 confra 
ternity took the name of the Academy of the Im 
maculate Conception. The poet crowned the first 
year was John Chappe, whose poem has been 
preserved, and it goes into the whole doctrine of 
the Immaculate Conception. The Academy con 
tinued its existence up to the great Revolution. 
Caen would not be behind Rouen in celebrating 
the praises of the Immaculate Mother of God, 
and so in 1527 John Lemercier, a distinguished 
advocate, established a similar competition 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 
Mary. 

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 



The Voice of the Faithful i6 7 

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. M In another work he says : " It seems 
that I have believed nothing but the confirmed 
opinion and the exceedingly widespread 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 

* Contra Epist. Fundamenti, c. 4. 
t L. de Utilitate Credendi, c. 14, n. 31, 
Epist. 36 ad Casulanum, n. i. 
L. contra Vigilantium, 



The Immaculate Conception 

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, more innocent, more 
alien, in short, from every condition and stain 
of sin than that Virgin ; that she truly never 
did hold anything in common with hell and its 
ruler the devil, and therefore not with any offence 
towards God or with damnation. That very grave 
author, St Paulinus of Nola, has given us this ex 
cellent 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 con 
sent 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 disbe 
lieves 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/ etc. . . . After this manner/ continues 

* Ep. iv, al. xxii, n. 36. 



The Voice of the Faithful 169 

Petavius, " it is to be believed that God has made 
manifest to Catholic Christians that complete ap 
prehension 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 mo 
ther, 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 mys 
tery 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 confra 
ternities or in devotions to the Immaculate Con 
ception, and they know that the popes have 
granted indulgences to encourage such devo 
tions; they wear holy medals with the same in 
tention ; 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 Immacu 
late; 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 

* Petavius de Incarnatione XIV, ii, to, n. 



170 The Immaculate Conception 

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 Mo 
ther of the world s Redeemer ; indeed, it is not 
in their power to associate sin with her; but with 
the unerring logic of their holy and humble affec 
tions, they cry out; "Alary, 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 r What has wrought the pious conviction 
but that religious sense, so far above the force of 
nature, which tells us that grace alone could have 
fixed our minds with such unwavering firmness 
of belief upon a mystery so heavenly and pure, 
so free from the corruptions of our nature, and so 
far removed from the bitterness of our own ex 
perience? What has wrought this universal 
conviction but that a sense of it was ahvays 
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, be 
fore she reduced it into solemn sentences, and 
imprinted on them the seal of her infallible au 
thority. 

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 Voice of the Faithful 171 

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 r The medal 
was revealed to a simple and holy virgin in 
Paris, in the year 1830, and bears upon it a re 
presentation 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 Ratisbpnne. 
He was a young, high-spirited and accomplished 
Jew, well known, highly connected, and most 
strongly tenacious of his Israelite convictions. 
His contempt of Christianity had been deepened 
into hatred through the conversion of his brother. 
In 1842, and when at the highest content with his 
opinions, and looking forward to an early marri 
age with an accomplished lady of his race, he is 
induced by a pious Catholic gentleman to place 
the medal of our Immaculate Lady round his 
neck. I need not say that the prayers of his 



*7 2 The Immaculate Conception 

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 igno 
rant as he had been of the doctrines of Chris 
tianity up to that time, he was found to be com 
pletely 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 em 
braced the cross.* 

* See the account of his conversion written by himself. 



The Voice of the Episcopate 173 



CHAPTER XVII 
The Voice of the Episcopate 

I HAVE already noticed that the doctrine of the 
Immaculate Conception was never associated 
with any division in the Episcopacy. No council 
or other episcopal assembly has ever breathed a 
word against it. It never came before them but 
they showed their inclination to cherish and pro 
tect 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 number 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 na 
tural, but only the adopted Son of God. This 
error naturally led to the consideration 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 



*74 The Immaculate Conception 

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 con 
dition of freedom or of servitude? If in a condi 
tion 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 ani 
mated and immaculate earth, by the operation of 
the Holy Spirit, as the apostle says: The first 
man was made of the earth, earthly, the second 
was of the heaven, heavenly. t If we confess 
that the earthly was constituted in a free condi 
tion, why do we not much more confess that the 
heavenly was of free condition? Whence was 
Adam made servile unless from sin? as the 
apostle Peter 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 discussed 
it for so long a time, and expressed it so clearly, 
had themselves embraced that pious belief which 
they called upon all Catholics to receive and em 
brace. Spondanus records in his annals, that a 
dreadful pestilence had been racing 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, 

* p. 122. t i Cor. xv, 47. 

t John viii, 34 ; 2 Pet. ii, 19 ; Harduin, t. iv, f. 891 ; Mansi 
xiii, 893. 



The Voice of the Episcopate 175 

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 in 
violably observed; and we strictly forbid any 
person whatever, under pain of excommunica 
tion, from presuming to preach or dispute pub 
licly 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 be cele 
brated 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 Arch 
bishop of Aix, and by twelve bishops of the 
province.* 

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 con 
cerning original sin, yet the opinions of the as 
sembled 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 been conceived 
without original sin." t 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 discussions, 
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 

* Harduin, t. ix, f. 1388; Mansi, xxxii, 186. 

t Pallavicini, Hist. Cone. Trid. VII, c. vii, n. 3. 



The Immaculate Conception 



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 few," 
says Catherines, and the ground of that opposi 
tion, observes this writer, was chiefly the con 
sideration that they were assembled to oppose 
the heresies of the times, and that a more suit 
able 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 Li 
tany of Loretto the petition, "Queen conceived 
without original sin." Under the present Pon 
tiff t 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 Rheims, 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 flowed 
in from prelates in all parts of the world, pe 
titioning the holy See to pronounce a dogmatic 
decision upon the mystery. And it was after 
this ardent desire had been expressed by so 
great a number of the members of the pisco- 

* Perrone, Appendix I ad Disquis. Theol. t Pius IX. 



The Voice of the Episcopate 177 

pacy, that Pius IX, in February, 1849, issued 
the Encyclical letter, " Ubi primum," from Gaeta, 
addressed to all the patriarchs, primates, arch 
bishops and bishops of the Catholic world, in 
which the pope observes, that during the ponti 
ficate of his predecessor, Gregory XVI, a most 
ardent desire 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 Dominicans, who had petitioned the Holy 
See that they might publicly proclaim her im 
maculate, 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 predecessor 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 judgement, decreed to the 
Blessed Virgin that honour which the piety of 
the faithful had so earnestly longed to see a- 
scribed to her. He then adds that he has ap 
pointed a commission of distinguished cardinals 
and of learned divines, to make a most accu 
rate examination of the whole question. He 
urges all the bishops to enjoin prayers in their 
respective dioceses, that he may be illuminated 
with heavenly light to enable him to decide 



1 78 The Immaculate Conception 

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 Im 
maculate Conception, 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 de 
sire on the subject. 

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 ot 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, pro 
fessed themselves most ready to obey whatever 
emanated from the Holy See upon the subject. 

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- 

* Cf. Pen-one, Th. Dogm. de Imm. Cone. B.V.M. 30, not. I. 



The Voice of the Episcopate 1 79 

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." In 
fallibility, then, is an attribute of the Church at 
all times, and not merely at the moment of a 
General Council. A council is but one of diffe 
rent ways in which the teaching Church ex 
presses its judgement. Great and dignified, in 
deed, are those illustrious assemblages. But 
provided the head and body of the Catholic 
Episcopate speak with one accordant voice, their 
authority is equally great and decisive, whether 
they be assembled together, or speak severally, 
yet accordantly, from their sees. Thus the Pela 
gian heresy was condemned without the assem 
bling of any General Council. Two Provincial 
Councils in Africa condemned the errors, the 
Sovereign Pontiff confirmed the decision, and the 
universal episcopate accepted his judgement. 
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 Pe 
lagians when, with the usual discontent of he 
resy, 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^con- 
demned without the assembling of a Synod." t 

* Serm. 132 de Verbis Apost., c. 9. 

t Contra Duas Epistolas Pelag. 1. 4, c. 12, n. 34. 



i8o The Immaculate Conception 

If, therefore, a doctrine be pronounced, when 
occasion demands it, by the local episcopacy, as 
in the case of the Pelagians, and the Sovereign 
Pontiff confirms it by his solemn judgement, and 
the Catholic episcopate accepts and promulgates 
it, the whole teaching Church has spoken. Or if 
the Sovereign Pontiff pronounces a solemn judge 
ment, as in the case of the Jansenists, and it is 
received and promulgated by the universal epis 
copate, 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 
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 brought out 
by the Encyclical of Pius IX 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 judge 
ment. And thus, whilst in a council a part of 
the episcopate alone can be present in person, 
and the rest by representation, in this case each 
bishop spoke in person, and the voice of the 
Catholic Church was found to be unanimous. 

* Mansi, vi, 971. 



The Voice of the Holy See 181 



CHAPTER XVIII 
The Voice of the Holy See 

WE have now to hear the voice of the supreme 
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 or 
(very 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. t For to Peter our Lord 
said : " I have prayed that thy faith may not 
fail: feed My sheep : confirm thy brethren." J 

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 

* Tertullian adv. Marc, iv, c. 5. 

t Ep. 45 ad Corn de Poly. Had., and Ep. 55 ad Corn, de 
Fort, et Fel. 

* Luke xxii, 32, and John xxi, 17. 



1 82 The Immaculate Conception 

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 extend 
ing" favour and protection to the sublime privi 
lege of Mary. 

From the decree of Sixtus IV in 1476 to the 
present day three-and-thirty pontiffs, including 
every pope whose reign was not too brief for 
many acts of authority, have issued constitu 
tions either directly or indirectly favouring the 
doctrine or extending encouragement to the de 
votion 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 TTT, the feast of the 
Conception began to be celebrated in Rome.t 

It was after Bandello of Castelnuovo had "pub 
lished i the work in which he declared the doc 
trine of the Immaculate Conception to be hereti 
cal that, to remedy the scandal it occasioned, 
Sixtus IV granted to the faithful who should 
assist at a mass and office approved by him, 
^ which directly affirmed the Immaculate Concep 
tion, the same indulgences which his prede 
cessors had granted for the mass and office 
of the Most Blessed Sacrament. + But as this 
was not enough to repress the boldness of the 
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 

* For a list of these Constitutions see Passaglia, vol. Ill, 
sec. 7, c. i, art. 3. 

t Passa^lia, I.e. 

* Cum praeexcelsa, A.D. 1476, Mansi, xxxii, 373. 



The Voice of the Holy See 183 

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 doc 
trine was not yet denned, he equally and with 
like censure forbade 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. f 

Leo X not only confirmed the office of the 
Immaculate Conception approved by Sixtus IV, 
but gave the privileges of a jubilee on the festi 
val 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 
brother. 

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

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 

* Grave nimis, A.D. 1483. Mansi, xxxii, 374. 

t Inter innumera, May, 1489. 

Ad ea, June, 1515; Super gregem, May, 1517; Pia 
Christi, February, 1518 ; Quia nuper, February, 1519 ; In- 
effabilia, March, 1521. 

Romanus Pontifex, July, 1522. 

!! Benedictus Deus, Jan., 1564. 



184 The Immaculate Conception 

great work.* Hitherto several different offices of 
the Conception had been used in various parts of 
the Churcn,f 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 Im 
maculate 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 de 
finition, 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 universally extended, 
whilst the mystery was still designated in the 
office as the " Holy Conception" and the "most 
worthy Conception." To the Franciscans the 
Pope confirmed the use of the office of Nogaro 
lis. Pius V also condemned the 73rd proposition 
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 controversial 
preaching and the publication of controversial 
writings which were often rash and occasions of 
scandal to the faithful, Pius V imposed silence 
on both sides in so far as the use of modern lan 
guages were concerned, until the question should 

* Quod a nobis, July, 1568. 

t There were at least five offices in use, those of Nogarolis, 
of Bernard de Bustis, of Quignonez, of Robert Gagnini and of 
H el sinus* 



The Voice of the Holy See 185 

be decided by the Holy See. He also confirmed 
the decrees of Sixtus IV. Such were the pro 
tective acts exercised towards the pious belief 
by a Dominican Pope, trained in the school of 
St Thomas. 

Sixtus V, in his constitution " Ineffabilia," 
1568, called the mystery "the most pure Con 
ception." 

Clement VIII raised the feast to the rank of 
a double major festival throughout the Church * 
and confirmed the acts of his predecessors. He 
also approved the Catechism of Bellarmin, which 
expressly teaches that " Our Lady is full of grace, 
for she was never attainted with the stain of any 
sin, either original or actual, mortal or venial." f 
. 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," forbade that opinion 
to be publicly maintained in any manner. + 

Gregory XV, to put a stop to the same scan 
dals, prohibited even private discourses against 
,the pious belief. And, as one religious Order had 
continued to use in their office the word " Sancti- 
fication," he enjoined that the word " Concep 
tion " 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 

* Ben. XIV, de Festis B.V.M., n. 207. 
t Pastoralis, July, 1599, Bell. Cat. c. 5. 
Regis pacific!, June, 1616. 
Sanclissimus Dominus noster, May, 1622. 



1 86 The Immaculate Conception 

this sense that the Church celebrated the festi 
val of the Conception with her solemn rites.* 

Benedict XIV addressed an encyclical 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 Bellannin, 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 
people.t 

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 re 
ligious Orders and the other great institutions 
of the Church were petitioning the Holy See 
from every quarter and urging for a final de 
finition. This ardent, this vehement desire became 
yet more widely manifested when the present pon 
tiff Pius IX 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, 
and of stating their opinions in writing. For 
the same object he also instituted a^ommission 

* Sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum, Dec., 1661. 

t Etsi minima, Feb. 1742. 

Narratio Actorum Sanctissimi Domini Nostri Pii IX, Pont. 
Max. super arg-umento de immaculate Deiparae Virgfinis Con- 
ceptu. Published at Rome by order of the Sovereign Pontiff. 



The Voice of the Holy See 187 

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 
should, 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 
opportune. 

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, com 
posed of a select number of the same theologians, 
under the presidency of the late learned and 



1 88 The Immaculate Conception 

illustrious Cardinal Fornari. That special com 
mission 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 enume 
rated, calculated to demonstrate the Immaculate 
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 unani 
mously approved both by the theologians who 
formed the commission, and by the cardinal who 
presided over it. They then demanded the opi 
nion of a particular Council of Cardinals, to the 
number of twenty-one, who having assembled to 
gether, after a searching and thorough examina 
tion of all things, judged in their wisdom 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 writen. And, by order of 
the Sovereign Pontiff, these replies were printed 
in nine volumes with an appendix, with which 
were also included letters from ecclesiastical 
bodies, religious orders, sovereigns, municipal 
corporations and other associations, humbly peti 
tioning for the declaration of the doctrine. Sun 
dry able treatises, written with the same view, 
were also added to this voluminous 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 examinatioh of this ques 
tion; what eagerness the Catholic Episcopate 



The Voice of the Holy See 189 

has 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 ex 
pressed 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 representa 
tives 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 unity. 

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 especial 
counsel. 

All was now ready. On December 8, the festi 
val of the Immaculate Conception, in the ever- 
memorable year 1854, during the celebration of 
a solemn Mass which the Supreme Pontiff offered 



The Immaculate Conception 



up, surrounded by a hundred and fifty-two mitred 
bishops, fifty-three cardinals, more than two hun 
dred prelates of an inferior order, a vast body of 
clergy from many countries, and some thirty or 
forty thousand people, who crowded the vasF 
basilica of St Peter s; Cardinal Macchi, the 
dean of the Sacred College, advanced to the 
Pontifical throne, accompanied by an arch 
bishop 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 supporters, 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 su 
preme and infallible judgement, you would de 
fine the Immaculate Conception of the Most 
Hoiy Virgin Mary, Mother of God, for the in 
crease 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 Col 
lege, the bishops and the people, deign, Most 
Blessed Father, to lift up your apostolic voice, 
and to pronounce the dogmatic decree of the Im 
maculate Conception of Mary, at which there will 
be joy in heaven and great exultation on the 
earth." 

To these words the Pontiff answered that he 



The Voice of the Holy See 191 

willingly received the prayers of the Sacred Col 
lege, the bishops and the people, but that they 
might be heard it was necessary to invoke the 
Holy Ghost. Then the Veni Creator Spiritiis \vas 
intoned and taken up by the immense assemblage 
of the people. And after the sublime supplica 
tion, 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 Concep 
tion, and solemnly denned that: 

" IT IS A DOGMA OF FAITH THAT THE MOST 
BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, IN THE FIRST INSTANT 
OF HER CONCEPTION, BY A SINGULAR PRIVILEGE 
AND GRACE OF GOD, IN VIRTUE OF THE MERITS 
OF JESUS CHRIST THE SAVIOUR OF THE HUMAN 

RACE, WAS PRESERVED EXEMPT FROM ALL STAIN 
OF ORIGINAL SIN." * 

Such is the solemn definition for which so 
many pravers and entreaties had been sent to 
Rome, and for which the whole Catholic episco 
pacy 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 counsel and the earnestness of prayer 
with which the Holy See proceeds before defining 
a doctrine. 

* Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854. 



1Q2 The Immaculate Conception 



CHAPTER XIX 
Conclusion 

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: " I will put enmities between 
thee and the woman, and thy seed and her 
seed." * 

* Gen. iii, 15. 



Conclusion 193 

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.." f 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 doc 
trines 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 enfolded 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 destroyed 
or fettered, but animated, exalted and freed by 
the gifts of grace ; and from the limited and mys 
terious mode in which the light of truth is com 
municated 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 to the rejection of profane 
novelties exterior to what is already believed and 
established, but hinders not such progress as 
successive explications 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 de 
nies that advancemejit^an_be^made in the know- 

* Luke i, 28. t Inter Opera Origenis, Horn, vi in Lucam. 



IQ4 The Immaculate Conception 

ledge 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 un 
folding 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 



Conclusion 



famous " Commonitorium against Heresies" (28 
and 29), written chiefly in defence of the decree 
of Ephesus, that decree which had proclaimed 
Mary to be the Mother of God. And the reader 
will not fail to see that every word of this beauti 
ful exposition applies as freshly to the decree of 
her Immaculate Conception as it 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 denned that Christ 
had two wills ; these were not new doctrines, 
though they were new as dogmatic definitions. 
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 al 
ways 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 expression 
of the perpetual integrity of her virginal 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; 



196 The Immaculate Conception 

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 an 
swered them by graces, protections, miracles ; 
and that faith was all but formally defined. 
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 Immacu 
late Conception of the Blessed Virgin is every 
day more magnificently explained, declared, con 
firmed 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 

* Rom. x, 10. 



Conclusion 197 

deposited in her keeping-, changes nothing in 
them at any time, diminishes nothing, adds no 
thing; 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 bur 
nish them that those ancient dogmas of celestial 
doctrine may receive evidence, light, distinct 
ness, 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 desig 
nations mark her position in the scheme of Re 
demption, 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 kingdom, that "The Queen stood 
at His right hand in a garment of gold, encircled 
with variety." t 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_oi_he_r 

* lueffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854. t Ps. xliv, 10. 



198 The Immaculate Conception 

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 ma 
ternity above the angels, her position 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 mater 
nity 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 remembrance ot 
dishonour. 

Then her primal grace is a light from the in 
finite purity and sanctity of God. For inexhaust 
ible as are His mercies for sinners ; rich beyond 
our comprehension as are His rewards for the 
regenerated and the just ; ineffable as are the 
ways in which He gives Himself to the saints; 



Conclusion 



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 sanctity 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, mor 
tal 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 re 
strain His graces or His favours. He can con 
sult His goodness rather than His justice. He 
can arrest corruption as He wills, and make it 



200 The Immaculate Conception 

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 con 
cerned. And in one glorious example 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 re 
flected on them r 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 sacraments. But the 
Body of Christ sprang from Mary. Yet she re 
ceives the fruits of the sacraments before they are 
instituted, and in a manner altogether pre-emi 
nent. For baptism she receives the gift of ori 
ginal justice and of sanctifying grace. And the 
Holy Ghost confirmed her then with His endur 
ing gifts. She is thus prepared to possess the 



Conclusion 201 

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 crea 
ture, 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 
expiration. 

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 con 
descension, love and goodness to His creatures, 
we have still the most beautiful instance m Mary. 
Or whether we would consider the depths of the 
riches which He won upon His cross, and the 
g-enerosity with which He pours out those inex 
haustible treasures, we shall find their most pro 
fuse expenditure was on His Immaculate Mother. 
Or whether we search the conditions of union 
with Jesus, we can contemplate them here in 
their most rare and absolute perfection. For to 
Mary alone of all saints can we ^d a perfecting 
clause to the Psalmist s words: "With the holy 



cause o e 

Thou shalt be holy .... and with the elect Thou 
shalt be elected," * and with the ^maculate Thou 
t be immaculate. Or if we would contem 
e the final end of all God s works, His praise 
glory 7n His saints, it is Mary who renders 
thereates 



202 The Immaculate Conception 

mal graces are the deep foundation from which 
that towering glory springs. 

In short, the Immaculate Conception of Mary 
is a summary of all the truths of the Gospel, dis 
plays 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 r 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 how 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 



Conclusion 203 

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 
Protestant communion. Formal rejection of re 
generation, 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."* 

* John iii, 6, 7, 5. 



2O4 The Immaculate Conception 

A religionism self-righteous and self-suffi 
cient, steeped in the bitters of its own spirit, like 
the souls of the Pharisees its votaries living 
on the sentimentalities supplied by the emo 
tions of excited nature, and sinking helplessly 
when they subside and reaction sets in; self- 
deluded all the while by a use of scripture lan 
guage and of scripture imagery, in which, not 
the sense of God, but their own is clothed this 
religionism has generated a spiritual pride more 
dangerous 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 outward works all indi 
cate the interior craving for the like self-excite 
ment and self-indulgence. Now this spirit, which 
finds all within, and asks for nothing from with 
out, which confounds its own emotions with per 
sonal inspiration a terrible source of spiritual 
pride cannot admit of exterior means of grace. 
It cannot admit of the healing medicines of 
humility, of the very nature of which it is igno 
rant. To bend to an exterior authority, to be 
lieve that God has established such an authority 
in any real sense, to obey it, to humble the 
heart to receive grace from objective channels, 
to obtain a sacred strength from Christ through 
the ministry of His Church, that ministry which 
is the provision He has made for securing the 
needful preparation of humility and obedience 
how can this be in those who cannot see that 



Conclusion 205 

God has ordained anything good which is ex 
terior to themselves? 

And as old traditions die away for want of 
vital nourishment, this self-sufficient spirit de- 
velopes itself unchecked to its natural conse 
quences. He who draws his spiritual resources 
from within himself will have subjective ten 
dencies, and will be continually confounding his 
own fires with the lights of heaven. It was to 
remedy this danger that God provided those 
outward means of sanctification, and required 
our submission to them. When the instincts of 
pride become constantly mistaken for the inspira 
tions of God, the next step will be to take our 
interior resources as the productions of our own 
soul. And so comes the blind conclusion that 
our origin was not sinful, but innoxious. Now 
this terrible pride, which is the source of so 
much error, fanaticism and false excitement, and 
which is so bitter against the doctrines and the 
disciples of humility, is the growth which springs 
from the seed which Satan has planted in the 
world. If that evil spirit cannot obtain direct 
worship of himself as he obtained it of the 
pagans, nor even the admission of a godship in 
him as he obtained it of the Manicheans, whose 
error has been so often revived, and in so many 
shapes; he has a third resource, and that is to 
lead men to take their own pride for God s light, 
to treat it as His truth, and to worship accord 
ingly. 

Sound knowledge of the remedy implies sound 
knowledge of the disease. And the rejection of 
regeneration by baptism leads on 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 founda- 



206 The Immaculate Conception 

tion which underlies the whole structure of Chris 
tianity. 

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 cause. 

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 en 
counter. 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 
regeneration, and of a regeneration so unmistak 
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 

* Rom. v, 12, and Job xiv, 4 (Septuagint version). 



Conclusion 207 



purity, is the one bright star which makes more 
visible the darkness of the universal night of hu 
man conceptions. And the appearance of that 
blessed one, illuminating by her immaculate 
light the unclean gulf of original sin, is greeted 
with clamours and cries from the enfeebled 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 exalted. 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 humanity 
the light to see those sacred truths of which this 
beautiful mystery is the last expression. 

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 9, 1854,* remonstrates with 
it in the following terms: "Why all this clamour 
on the part of orthodox Protestants ? This be 
lief is but the necessary and very natural conse 
quence of their own principles, and it is surpris 
ing 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 ot 
their own dogmatic system, and show both tne 
weak sides and the corruption of the Evangeli 
cal church. In substance it is a question on 
the historical fact of the holy and immacula 
personality of Jesus Christ 
disposed Jo revise 



* From the " Univers " of January 26, 1855. 



2o8 The Immaculate Conception 

theory of original sin, and our orthodox now 
desire it less than ever, there is no other 
part to take but to imitate the Catholics, 
and to deny the influence of original sin on 
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 
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 ac 
complishing 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. What 
is their grand philosophical cry r The perfecti 
bility of man : the pagan s confidence in human 
* Ps. xi, 2. 



Conclusion 209 

resources for human happiness. This is upset 
ting religion, law and policy, wherever it comes. 
Perfection is to be reached, and even equality 
of perfection, not through God s grace but by 
men s efforts by combination of their energies; 
by working in the products of nature ; by com 
merce in them; by new social arrangements to 
come out of the conflict of opinions or of wea 
pons; 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 regeneration 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 con 
tains within himself, or draws from the natures 
around him, the sources of his own perfectibility ? 
Let us ask, perfectibility 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 

13 



2io The Immaculate Conception 

by his words he may awaken the minds of others 
to behold it, he does not originate it from him 
self. It is not in the senses, it is not in the in 
stincts, it is not in the imagination, it is in the 
light of God, and "in His light we see light."* 
It is a deposit. "And what is this deposit? It 
is confided to thee, it is not invented by thee; 
thou hast received 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 servant. "t It 
searches the conscience and claims the undivided 
homage of the heart. It consents to the humble, 
but repels the proud, for it demands an absolute 
obedience and submission 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 be 
lieved 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 
powers to see and hold the truth. But grace is 
not given beyond a certain measure, and that 
measure is not the same to all, unless we invoke 
it by devoted and generous prayer, by self-sacri 
fice and by denial of its enemy the flesh. 

"The wicked man, when he comes into the 
depths of sins, despises.":}: These are the words 
of truth. When he dwells in the depths of his 
corrupted nature, he despises truth. And, myste 
rious blindness ! the more he sinks into the de 
gradation of his nature, and the more he confides 

* Ps. xxxv, 10. t S. Vincent. Lerin. Comruonitorium, n. 27. 
Prov. xviii, 3. 



Conclusion 211 

in the poverty of his unassisted reason, so much 
the less does he see of that degradation and that 
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 
dawn. 

Now Mary is the highest example of human 
perfection and of created happiness. And this 
great fact strikes down a thousand theories. In 
every earthly sense of the word she is weak, as 
she is 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 

* Luke i, 48, 52. 



212 The Immaculate Conception 

of which we had so often heard in vain. The 
condition of perfection is shown to be chaste hu 
mility, and the source of perfection the grace of 
Christ. And that grace must come to us as 
Christ prescribes, and not 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 privi 
lege. 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 ar 
rival with inspired words, she did not say, "Bles 
sed Mary," or " Blessed Cousin," but " Blessed 
art thou among women, "t that is, farther re 
moved from the curse art thou than all women. 
And when Mary sang her canticle 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 r 

" 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 He 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 hu 
mility was the measure of His grace. And bles 
sed indeed shall she be called, because never 
under the curse. 

* Luke i, 28. t Luke i, 42. % Luke i, 46-55. 



Conclusion 



"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 gene 
ration to them that fear Him." The Mother ot 
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 she 
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 be 
neath 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," f reign 
ing 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 destruc 
tion. 

" 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 the empty throne of Lucifer, 
so will He lift up each humble one in his degree. 

* Apoc. xii, 5. t i Mach. ii, 47. 



214 The Immaculate Conception 

" 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, O Immaculate Mother of God. He made 
the Gentiles Abraham s children, when He made 
Himself their brother and thee their mother, 
O 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. 

O 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. 



Appendix 215 

APPENDIX 

THE narrative of the vision of Helsinus is pub 
lished by Gerberon in the Appendix to St An- 
selm 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 founda 
tion for attributing it to him. 

Gerberon f 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 Wil 
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 
Abbey on account of the infirmity of the abbot. + 

t Gerberon, Censura Ep. vel. serm. de Concep. B.V. in Op. 
S. Anselmi. 

Hist. Abb. Rams. Gale s Scriptores, vol. i., p. 4 6 *- 



216 Appendix 

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 1069. If his voyage to Denmark was a 
flight instead of a mission, he may have gained 
information that he turned to account with Wil 
liam. Lingard says the king had been made 
"acquainted with the menaces of the Danes, and 
had made preparations adequate to the danger."f 
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 
arises 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 narra 
tive. The reply of Peter Cellensis to Nicholas of 
St Alban s, who seems to have urged the vision 
as authority for the festival, is amusing enough. 
The Bishop of Chartres says for answer "that 
English levity is not to be put into comparison 
with French maturity. That as the English are 
surrounded by water, they live in a dense atmos 
phere which subjects them to vapours and so dis 
poses them to dreams, and they mistake their 
dreams for visions." | 

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. 

* History of England William the Conqueror. t Ibid. 

Op. Pet. Ab. Cell, et Ep. Cam. Epist., 1. vi, ep. 23. See 
" Legend of Abbot Elsi," by the Rev. H. Thurston, " Month," 
July, 1904. 






Index 



217 



INDEX OF SUBJECTS 

abp = archbishop ; bp = bishop; d = died; f = founded ; 
m = martyred 



Abou, Ishac, 131 

Abraham, a type of Christ, 26 

Adam, created immaculate, 

91, 108 ; his fall, 92 
Adrian VI (pope 1522-3), 183 
Albert the Great, 136 
Alexander VII (pope 1655- 

1667), 56, 151, 185 
Ambrose, St (bp of Milan, 

doctor, d. 397) 77, 116, 

160 
Ansbertus (O.S.B., d. 

H39), 78 

Amphilochius, St (bp of Ico- 
nium, d. 394), 22 

Anastasius (monk of Mount 
Sinai, 7th century), 66 

Andrew, St (apostle), 113 

St (of Crete, d. 720), 102, 

122 

(abp of Csesarea), 77 

Angels had imperfect fore 
knowledge of the Incarna 
tion, 64; how redeemed, 
66; their trial, 66 

Anselm, St (abp of Canter 
bury, doctor, d. 1109), 50, 
124, 164-5 

Aretas (bp of Caesarea, oth 
century), 78 

Arians, 6 

Augustine, St (bp of Hippo, 
doctor, d. 430), n, 32, 41, 
51, 66, 76, 81, 105, 118, 126, 
167, 179 

Bandello (O.P., d. 1506) 182 
Baptism, its effects, 82 
Brethren of Jesus, 103, 114 
Breviary, 184 



Baius, M. (prof, of holy scrip 
ture at Louvain, d. 1589), 
184 

Baronius (cardinal, wrote 
Annales Eccles., d. 1607), 
103 

Basil, St (bp of Csesarea, doc 
tor, d. 379), 16, 22 

Benedict, St (founded O.S.B., 

d - 543.) 
Bellarmin (S.J., cardinal, d. 

1621), 1 86 
Benedict XIV (pope, 1740- 

1758), 56, 186 
Bernard, St (abbot of Clair- 

vaux, doctor, d. 1153), 66, 

79, 89, 135, 144 
Bonaventure, St (O.F.S., bp, 

doctor, d. 1274), 136, 162 
Bridget, St (f. Bridgettines, 

d. 1373) 

Catharinus (O.P., bp, d. 1553), 

176 
Catherine, St (of Sienna, 

O.S.D., d. 1380) 147 
Capponi, 102 
Chappe", John (wrote poem on 

Im. Cone. 1486), 166 
Clement VIII (pope, 1592- 

1605), 185 

Catharine, St, Prayer of, 147 
Cerinthians, 73 
Collyridians, 7 
Conception, twofold, 54 ; 

feast of in the east, 158 ; 

west, 161 ; England, 165 ; 

Rome, 182 
Confraternities of the Immac. 

Conception, 166 



218 



The Immaculate Conception 



Councils, their authority, 195; 
at Avignon (1432), 174; 
Basle (1431), 174; Ephesus 
(431), 6, 119; Frankfort 
(794), 173; London (1328), 
164; Trent (1546), 85, 175; 
Vatican (1854), 189 

Cyprian, St (bp of Carthage, 
m. 258), 66, 181 

Cyril, St (patriarch of Jerusa 
lem, doctor, d. 386), 114 

David, a type of Christ, 27 
Denys, St (the Areopagite, 

converted by St Paul, bp of 

Athens, m. 95), 89 
De Sacy, 73 

Development, Law of, 193 
Dionysius, St (patriarch of 

Alexandria, d. 264), 113, 

114 

see Denys 

Divines, Voice of, 135 

Dominicans, 143-150 

Dove of Noah, 109; of the 

Canticle, Ho 

Eadmer (Cluniac monk, secre 
tary to St Anselm, d. 1124), 
12 

Earth immaculate before the 
fall, 94 

Ebionite heresy, 3, 73 

Episcopate, never contested 
the doctrine, 152; its autho 
rity, 179 

Eutychians, 180 

Eve immaculate before the 
fall, 92, 108 

Exemption from law, 34 

Ephrem.St (deacon of Edessa, 

d- 379). 75. Il6 > l6 
Epiphanius, St (bishop of Sa- 

lamis, d. 403), 4, 7, 37, 66, 

75, 98, 101-4, 114 
Eusebius (bp of Verceil in 

Gaul, d. 370), 12 

Faithful, Voice of the, 167 
Fathers, Voice of the, 112 



Fall of the angels, 64; of man, 

91; reversed, 93 
Felix of Urgel (heretical bp, 

d. 818), 121 

Festival, see Conception 
Fisher, Bl. John (cardinal bp 

of Rochester, m. 1535), 

168 

Fornari, Cardinal, 188 
Fulgentius, St (bp of Car 

thage, d. 533), 51 

Galland (professor of Arabic, 



Gaude, Fr M. F. (Procurator- 

general of Dominicans), 

150, note 
Geoffrey de Gorham (abbot of 

St Albans, d. 1146), 165 
George (bp of Nicomedia, 

1621-3), 95, 102, 158 
Germanus, St (patriarch of 

Constantinople, d. 733), 102, 

122 

Gnostics, 5 

Gregory XV (pope 1621-3), 

57, 151, 185 

- XVI (pope 1831-46), 1 86 
- St (of Nazianzum, bp, 

doctor, d. 389), 66, 127 
Gradation in nature, 42; in 

grace, 44, 46 
GueYanger (liturgist), 159 

Hall, Joseph (Protestant bp of 

Norwich, d. 1656), 50 
Helsinus (abbot of Ramsey), 

161, 184, 215 

Heresies, Modern, 203, 206 
Hermes, 152 
Hesychius (patriarch of Jeru 

salem, d. 609), 51, 75 
Hilary, St (bp of Poitiers, d. 

367), 127 
Hippolytus, St (bp, m. 230), 

102, 114 

Ignatius, St (bp of Antioch, d. 
107), 5, 65 



Index 

Irenaeus, St (bp of Gaul, m. 

202), 4, 5, 66, 95, 97, 4 
Innocent III (pope 1198-26), 

54 

VIII (pope 1484-92), 183 

Immaculate Conception, its 
meaning-, 54, 160; the eter 
nal counsel of God, 59; its 
moment, 107; the voice of 
the Fathers, 112; of Ma 
homet, 128; of Luther, 131; 
of the Divines, 135; of the 
Liturgy, 158; of the faith 
ful, 163; of the Episcopate, 
173; of the Holy See, 181; 
definition by the Vatican 
Council, 191; when first con 
troverted, 135 

Indulgences for the office and 
mass, 182 

Isaac a type of Christ, 27 

Jerome, St (translator of the 
Bible, d. 420), 66, 167 

Joachim, 101, 103, 104 

John, St, evangelist, the com 
panion of Mary, 77 ; his 
apocalyptic vision, 71-74 

the Baptist, his miracu 
lous conception, 29 

of St Thomas, 67 

of Damascus (monk, d. 

760), 32, 33, 72, 95 I02 -4. 
123 

Joseph, a type of Christ, 27 

Julian Firmicus, 114 

(Pelag-ian bp, d. 450), 

117 

Justin, St (m. 167), 114 

Kenrick, 172 

Lactantius (orator and Chris 
tian apologist, d. 325), 66 

A Lapide, Cornelius (S.J., 
professor of Scripture at 
Louvain and Rome), 71 

Leonard, St, of Port Maurice, 
202 



219 

Leo X (pope, 1513-1522), 183 
Liturgies, 92-96, 104; of St 

James, 159 ; of Alexandria, 

*59 

Litany of Loretto, 176 
Luther, 131 

Magnificat, The, 212 

Mahomet (false prophet, d. 
632), 128-131 

Manicheans, 32, 118 

Maracci (clerk regular of 
Lucca, d. 1700), 148 

Marius Mercator (wrote 
against Nestorians and 
Pelagians, d. 451), 13 

Mary, her office, I ; union 
with Jesus, 8 ; forms the 
features of Jesus, 10; guided 
and ruled His childhood, 10 ; 
her preparation by God, 30 ; 
head of created beings, 49 ; 
foretold in Old Testament, 
61 ; represented in the Apo 
calypse, 71 ; the ark of the 
testament, 71 ; prophecies 
apply to her and to the 
Church, 79; her purity 
necessary, 86 ; how redeem 
ed, 88 ; the second Eve, 94- 
100, Ti4 ; compared to para 
dise, 94, 99, 114, 122 ; to the 
tree of life, 96 ; her concep 
tion, 109 ; sung in the Can 
ticle, no; silence of Evange 
lists about her, 101 ; por 
tents before her birth, 103 ; 
her pre-eminence, 197 

Maximin (bp of Turin, 5th 
century), 118 

Mazzola, 103 

Medal, Miraculous, 170 

Methodius, St (bp of Tyre, 
martyr 311), 11, 66, 77 

Morinus (Oratorian, convert 
from Calvinism, d. 1659) 

Moses a type of Christ, 27 

Muratori (of Milan, d. 1750), 
152 



220 



The Immaculate Conception 



Nestorians, 6, 22 

Nicephorus (patriarch of Con 
stantinople, d. 828), 102, 104 

Nicholas, (monkof St Alban s), 
136 

Ill (pope 1277-1280), 182 

Norbert, St (founded Canons 
Regular, 1120), 165 

Offices of the Conception, 184 
Old Testament prepared for 

the Incarnation, 25 
Origen of Alexandria, (d. 254), 

95. i 4> i?5 
Pallavicini (S.J., cardinal, 

iyth century), 175 
Papal constitutions, 182 
Paradise, 91 
Paschasius, Rudbert (O.S. B., 

d. 865), 123 
Passaglia, 72 
Paul V (pope 1605-1621), 57, 

185 
Paulinus, St (bp. of Nola, d. 

430, 168 
Pelagius (heresiarch, c. 400, 

117 

Perfection, The source of, 21 1 
Perrone, J. (Italian S.J., au 
thor), 56, 176 
Petavius Denys, S.J. (d. at 

Clermont 1652), 62, 125, 167 
Peter Cellensis (bp of Char- 

tres), 136 
Peter Chrysologus (abp of 

Ravenna, d. 458), 96, 119 
Peter Damien (cardinal, d. 

1073), 126 
Philosophism, 208 
Pius IV (pope 1559-1566), 183 
V (pope 1566-1572), 140, 

183 
IX (pope 1846-1878), 177, 

1 86 

Pride, 21 1 
Protestantism, 207 
Preparation, Gradual, 25 
Primasius (bp of Adrumetum, 

c. 560), 78 



Proclus, St (patriarch of Con 
stantinople, d. 447), 13, 16, 
120, 127 [Christ, 27 

Prophets, The, typical of 

Prudentius, Aurelius (poet, 
4th century), 121 

Purity of God, 86; necessary 
in Mary, 86 

Rationalist view of the Dogma 

207 
Ratisbonne, Alph. (convert 

from Judaism, 1842), 171 
Redemption to preserve from 

sin or to save after sin, 89 
Religious Orders support the 

dogma, 141-143 
Ricci (bp of Pistoia), 173 
Rosmini, Antonio (founded 

Order of Charity, 1828), 153 
Rupert (abbot, O.S.B., d. 

n 35). 68, 73, 79 

Sabas, St (sup. general of 
monasteries in Palestine, d. 
531), 119, 158 

Sabina s, St, in Rome, 150 

Satan, his fall, 66; over 
thrown, 70; type of anti 
christ, 70; conflict with 
Mary, 72; his pride, ambi 
tion, hatred of God incar 
nate, 75 

Scotus, Duns (Scotch, O.S.F., 
d. 1308), 67 

Scribonius, 67 

Sin, Original, 81-86; its effect 
on the regenerate, 83-87 

Sixtus IV (pope 1471-1484), 
57, 140, 182 

V(pope 1585-1590), 185 

Spondanus, 174 

Stuart, Moses, 72 

Suarez, Francis, S.J. (d. at 
Lisbon, 1617), 67 

Sufferings, 90 

Teaching authority, where, 
138 



Index 

Temple, The, its preparation, 

3 1 

Tertullian (priest of Carthage 
cir. 200), 66, 95, 97, 114, 191 

Thomas Aquinas, St (O.P., 
died 1274), 102, 136, 144 

Theodore (patriarch of Jeru 
salem, eighth century), 121 

Theodotus(bp. of Ancyra, fifth 
century), 22, 24, 95, 119 

Three children in the furnace, 
The, typical, 38 

Ulpian (a Roman lawyer, anti- 
Christian, died 226), 37 

Universities, eighteen insist 
on the dogma, 141 



221 

Vincent, St (Monk of Lerins, 
died 430), 193, 210 

Voice of the Fathers, 112; of 
non-Catholics, I2H; of Di 
vines, 135 ; of the Liturgy, 
158 ; of the Faithful, 167; of 
the Bishops, 173 ; of the 
Holy See, 181. 



Wace (Canon of Bayeux, c. 

iioo), 162 
Wisdom in the Canticle ap- 

>lied to Mary, 62 
r oman, The, in Apocalypse, 

71 

Woman s condition raised by 
Mary, 52 



pl 

Woi 



222 The Immaculate Conception 



INDEX TO SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES 



Genesis i, 108; ii, 4; iii, 51, 61, 

75. 93... 96 # igzfv, 35? 
xiv, xvii, xviii, 27; xxi, 35, 
36; xxii, 27, 36; xxviii, 32; 
xxx, 27. 

Exodus ii, 27; iii, 35, 38; xxii, 

4 34- 

Deuteronomy xviii, 27. 
Josue iii, 35, 39; x, 35 
Judges vi, 39; xiii, 28 
i Kings i, iii, 28; xvi, 27 

3 Kings vi, 31 

4 Kings ii, 35, 39 
Faralipomenon xxix, 31 
Esther ii, iii, 36; xv, xvi, 37 
Psalms ii, 10, 50, 108; viii, 67; 

xi, 208; xvii, 201; xxx, 210; 

xxxvi, 23; xxxix, 66; xliv, 

197; xlv, 23; 1, 84; Ixvi, 95, 

Ixxiii, 74; Ixxxvi, 23; ciii, 33; 

cix, 16 ; cxviii, 117; cxliii, 90 
Proverbs viii, 62;xvii, 85; xxiv, 

38; xxxi, 19 
Canticle i, ii, iv, in; vi, 50, 

in, 145; viii, 94, in 
Isaias vi, 17, 28; vii, 61, 72; 

ix, 60; xiv, 70; xlv, 32; Iv, 

59; Ixvi, 79 

Jeremias i, 28, 61; xxxi, 61 
Ezechiel xxviii, 70 



Daniel iii, 35, 38 

Joel ii, 33 

Zacharias ii, 33 

Malachias i, 14, ii 

Matthew i, 79; xvi, 21 ; xix, 

5 2 
Lukei, 2, 10, ii, 19, 22, 28, 

29 39 40, 99 I0 . H5 !34 
193, 211, 212; ii, 2, 10, 20; 
vii, 90; xi, 10; xxi, 181 
Acts v, ix, xix, 21 
Romans v, 14; vii, 84; viii, 75, 

86; ix, 85; x, 196 
I Corinthians i, 16; ii, 16, 23, 

83; xii, 45, 49; xv, 45, 174 
Galatians iv, 60, 67 
Ephesians i, 61, 65, 160; iv, 66; 

v, n, 160 
Colossians i, 60, 65, 160 ; ii, 

8 

Hebrews i, 8, 64, 65, 68; vii, 
20, 27, 31, 49, 86; ix, 114; x, 
91; xi, 19, 160 
James ii, 26; iii, 38 

1 Peter i, 60, 64, 160; iii, 65 

2 Peter ii, 174 
Jude, v, 160 

Apocalypse iii, 60; xii, 71-75, 
78, 213; xiv, 160; xxii, 60; 
xxxiii, 63 



Ullathorne, B. 

The Immaculate Conception. 



1022 
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